By Mahmoud Fouly, CAIRO Egypt (Xinhua)
-- More than 40 million people are
suffering hunger in the Near East and North Africa Region (NENA)
due to wars and conflicts, according to the latest 2017 report
of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on food security
and nutrition in the region.
Thursday, the report states that 40.2 million people are
suffering undernourishment and hunger while some 55.2 million
are going through severe food insecurity due to conflicts in the
The NENA countries
are mostly Middle Eastern and Arab states, including Egypt where
the FAO regional headquarters is based, Syria, Iraq, Yemen,
Libya, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait,
Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Tunisia,
Algeria, Morocco and Iran.
“This year, the FAO
report shows that conflicts are the main reason behind the
deteriorating conditions of food security and nutrition in the
NENA region, as over 40 million people are suffering hunger in
the region with 75 percent of them living in five war-torn
states,” said Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, FAO’s regional chief for
NENA and the organization’s assistant director general.
The region has been
the most tense worldwide throughout history. Since the so-called
Arab Spring uprisings that started about seven years ago and
toppled some powerful Arab leaders, turmoil has further hit
Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, with Lebanon suffering political
instability and the Palestinian-Israeli peace process facing a
The FAO 2017 report
states that 27.2 percent of all people of NENA’s war-affected
countries are chronically hungry, or undernourished, during the
2014-16 period, highlighting Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya as
“hot spots” of regional conflicts.
Taking Syria as an
example, the country’s ongoing crisis that erupted in March 2011
has claimed the lives of about half a million and displaced and
wounded over 14 million others.
“The costs of
conflicts and wars are not restricted to the level of food
security but it also extends to the human level, as the NENA
region includes the largest number of displaced people, and the
issue has its large social and economic impacts too,” Abdessalam
Ould Ahmed, FAO’s regional chief, told Xinhua after releasing
the 2017 report in Cairo.
that the effects of wars on agriculture in Syria, for example,
have been estimated at 16 billion U.S. dollars.
“There are some
countries that spend 20 to 60 percent of its GDP on coping with
wars and violence, which is such a high cost,” he lamented.
The FAO report
highlighted peace in this region as the only means to eradicate
hunger by 2030, which is one of the UN millennium development
goals agreed on by world states.
“There must be
collaboration, collective work and adoption of comprehensive
policies to face poverty, starting with the pressing
humanitarian needs of some states and supporting resilience,
development and reconstruction in conflict-stricken countries,”
the FAO regional chief said.
malnutrition, which are widely spreading in the region due to
civil wars and conflicts over the past few years, have made the
United Nations World Food Program (WFP) dedicate half of its
annual budget to NENA suffering states.
Since March 2015, a
Saudi-led Arab alliance has been launching airstrikes against
Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, a group that helped
overthrow Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and killed
former President Ali Abdullah Saleh after he turned against
The Yemeni crisis
has left some 20.7 million people in need, over 2 million
internally displaced, according to the report of the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released on Dec. 18.
“The WFP along with
its partners provide food aids for more than 7 million people in
Yemen and over 6 million in Syria and its neighboring states, in
addition to several other Arab states and countries in the
Middle East and North Africa,” WFP regional director Muhannad
Hadi told Xinhua, noting that the WFP budget for 2018 is 9
billion U.S. dollars.
to the ongoing conflicts, more than half of the WFP budget goes
to the Middle East region and the Arab world. For example, we
need more than 1 billion dollars for Yemen and the same amount
for Syria in the coming year 2018,” he added.
In Libya, a civil
war has also been taking place for years, leaving the state
divided between two rival administrations, one based in the
capital Tripoli and the other in the eastern city of Tobruk.
The FAO 2017 report
serves as a source of data and information for the massive,
nonstop work of the WFP and the UN organizations.
The report also
focuses on the fundamental factors that have driven improvements
in food security and malnutrition, including violence cessation,
poverty reduction, economic growth, better maternal and
childhood nutrition and public health and higher food quantity