UN Report: Rising hunger levels in Middle East war zones

According to a WFP and FAO investigation, food shortages and food insecurity deteriorate in areas affected by conflict. The most critical situation is recorded in Yemen, plagued by wars and epidemics. Syria and Lebanon also of concern. WFP expert: The price of violence is "getting higher".

Beirut (AsiaNews) - Food insecurity and famine in conflict-affected countries, especially in the Middle East, continue to worsen in the face of growing problems in the delivery and distribution of aid to the population. This is what emerges from a recent survey presented by WFP and FAO experts (respectively the World Food Program and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization) to the UN Security Council.

The latest report prepared by the UN agencies focuses on food insecurity in 16 countries in the world: Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Iraq, Lebanon (Syrian refugees), Liberia, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, in addition to the Lake Chad Basin.

The joint FAP-WFP survey shows that in over half of these nations, a quarter or more of the population live in crisis situations or in levels of emergency regarding hunger.

The most critical context is in Yemen, the scene of a civil war that has caused thousands of victims and some of the worst epidemics in the world, such as cholera which has been added to the chronic lack of food and water. In the Arab country 60% of the population, equal to 17 million individuals, suffers from acute malnutrition.

Following are South Sudan (45%) of the population affected, while in third place in this ranking we find Syria, with 33% of the inhabitants affected by malnutrition, for a total of 6.5 million people. The Syrian conflict ends up having repercussions on neighboring Lebanon, in fourth place, with 33% of the population and 1.9 million people affected by the hunger emergency. Of these, most are Syrian refugees.

According to the experts of the UN humanitarian agencies, in all 16 countries involved in the investigation the risk factor for food safety is common: war. The intensification of conflicts is the main reason for the rising hunger levels in the world, after decades of constant decline.

The number of people suffering from hunger in the planet rose to 815 million in 2016, compared to 777 million in the previous year. Of these, the majority (489 million people) live in nations affected by wars. Hence the renewed call for the cessation of conflicts and the growth of investments in the food security sector, as a key element in achieving lasting peace in all areas of greatest risk.

Francis Mwanza, head of the WFP office in London, said: “For the World Food Programme, the price of conflict is becoming too high. Eighty per cent of WFP expenditure occurs in conflict zones. “The fear is if we continue having no access in a number of countries, including Yemen, we may have famine conditions in some areas. If we want to reach zero hunger, ending conflict is a major step in reaching that goal.”