Food security in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is worsening very fast because of conflict in a number of countries in the region, the United Nations commented. In the countries that are hit hardest by the conflict – Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya and Sudan – an average of more than a quarter of the population was not sufficiently nourished, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said in its annual report entitled The 2017 Edition of the Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition in the Near East and North Africa.
In the MENA countries directly impacted by conflict, about 27 percent of all people were chronically hungry during 2014-2016. That is six times more than the share of the population that was undernourished in the countries not directly hit by conflicts. At the same time, “severe food insecurity” – another measure used by FAO to gauge hunger – in conflict-affected countries now is double that in non-conflict countries.
In Yemen, about 25% of the population is on the brink of famine following several years of the conflict between the Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi that has caused one of the worst humanitarian disasters in modern times. The report says that undernourishment in countries not directly affected by conflict, such as most Gulf Arab states and most North African countries including Egypt, had improved in the last 10 years but it had deteriorated in conflict-hit countries.
“The costs of conflict can be seen in the measurements of food insecurity and malnutrition,” the FAO’s Assistant Director-General Abdessalam Ould Ahmed said and stressed that “decisive steps towards peace and stability (need to be) taken.” A number of countries in the region have fallen into conflict after the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings that toppled leaders in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Syria’s civil war, which also began with a similar uprising, had claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and forced more than 11 million out of their homes.