52 million people in the NENA region are suffering from chronic undernourishment.
Rabat – Hunger in the Near East and North Africa (NENA) region continues to worsen in a trend that has been seen since 2011, according to a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The rise of hunger in the region is primarily due to the region’s ongoing conflicts, reports the FAO. While those five conflict countries have seen an increase in undernourishment to 26%, the rate has remained relatively low (5%) in countries which aren’t experiencing conflict.
Two-thirds of hungry people in the region, making up 34 million people, live in countries affected by conflict. The remaining 18 million hungry are not in conflict stricken countries, but experience the region-wide ramification of those conflicts.
“Conflicts and civil instability have long-lasting impacts on the food and nutrition security of both affected and surrounding countries in the region,” said Abdessalem Ould Ahmed, the Assistant Director-General and NENA Representative of the FAO.
The rise in conflicts and the failure of countries to adequately invest in structural reform policy threaten the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which includes the goal of Zero Hunger, the elimination of hunger and malnutrition by 2030.
In addition to malnutrition, the region faces the issue of obesity, which put pressure on countries health systems and economies. The report recommends that, in order to combat obesity, countries work to raise public awareness and ensure access to nutritious food.
Key in the report”s recommended solutions is the need to invest in rural transformation. According to the FAO, improvements in hunger-management, food security, and nutrition are positively associated with rural transformation.
Rural transformation specifically refers to support for sustainable practices, better infrastructure in rural areas, and the reduction of food insecurity and poverty. The need for proactive policy is especially necessary as 40% of the population in the NENA region live in rural areas.
“Countries that are not in conflict and have gone furthest in transforming rural areas in a sustainable way… have achieved better food security and nutrition outcomes than those in conflict or with lower levels of rural transformation,” said Ould Ahmed.
One such country is Morocco.
Morocco, along with Egypt, Iraq, and Palestine, has seen a medium level of rural transformation. More could be done moving forward, especially to deal with the issue of unemployment in the country, but Morocco has been on the path towards reducing hunger. The number of undernourished in Morocco has consistently decreased since 2008, from 1.7 million to 1.4 million.