12/18/2021, 09.46
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FAO, one third of the inhabitants in the Arab world are at risk of hunger

The UN agency reports that 141 million people, or 32.3% of the total in the region, experience "food insecurity". The level of hunger since 2000 has increased by 91.1%. The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the situation, but it is still too early to assess the effects. Childhood obesity is also on the rise. 



Beirut (AsiaNews) - About one third of the inhabitants are experiencing food insecurity in the Arab world, while the level of hunger in the last two decades has increased by 91.1%.

These are the figures that emerge from a recent study by the United Nations, according to which 32.3% of the population of the Arab region did not have access to an adequate level of food in 2020, with over 10 million more people reporting critical situations and food needs compared to the previous year. 

The report, published on 16 December by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), shows that 141 million people in Arab countries will experience 'moderate or severe food insecurity' in 2020. Since the early 2000s, hunger has increased by more than 90 percent, affecting all income levels and all nations, both those affected by conflict and those that have enjoyed relative peace. 

Jean Marc Faures, FAO’s Regional Programme Leader for the Near East and North Africa, told TRT World that the on-going Covid-19 pandemic has added an “additional burden to an already difficult situation in many countries.”

“Most of 2021 has still seen major disruptions in many sectors due to Covid, with, for instance, major logistical problems related to transportation of food, and in general inflation and increase in the price of major food commodities,” said Faures. 

According to the report, 69 million people, or 16% of the region's population, were undernourished in 2020, an increase of 4.8 million compared to 2019. Among the 22 Arab nations, Somalia and Yemen have the highest levels of undernourishment between 2018 and 2020: nearly 60% of Somalis and over 45% of Yemenis struggled with hunger or were undernourished. Another element is obesity, which affects the Arab world at more than twice the global average. 

Wars are the main cause of hunger, affecting 53.4 million people. The hunger rate is six times higher in states and areas of conflict. Other factors hampering hunger include social unrest, poverty, inequality, climate change and scarce natural resources.

The FAO report found that in 2020, 20.5% of Arab children under the age of five will have rickets, while 7.8% will be weaker and more emaciated. The former figure is an improvement on the 2000 figure, where the incidence was 28.7%, while the latter is higher than the global average of 6.7%. Rickets and developmental difficulties appear higher in war-torn nations. In contrast, 10.7% of children in the Arab world were overweight in 2020, about twice the global average of 5.7 and higher than the 9.4 recorded in 2000, confirming a deterioration in diet.

The highest levels of child overweight occur in Libya where 25.4% of children are affected, followed by Lebanon (19.7%) and Syria (18.2%).

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