Amman, Oct. 1 (Petra)- The number of undernourished in the Near East and North Africa (NENA) has more than doubled since 1990 standing now at about 33 million peoples,UN Hunger Report said Tuesday.
The NENA is also the only region where, during the same period, the prevalence of undernourishment has increased, moving from 6.6% to 7.7%, the report revealed.
Despite the progress made by few countries, the region, as a whole, is failing to meet the 2015 target of halving the number (or the proportion) of undernourished among the population, largely due to wars, conflicts and instability, the report said, adding that distress on livelihoods in many parts of the region, including Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Gaza, is very high and vulnerable communities are paying the price for situations of instability and conflict in the first place. Accessibility and affordability of food is a key issue for millions of affected people.
Humanitarian action and efforts to build resilience and achieve peace and stability must go hand in hand if we want to avert even deeper crises and restore basic conditions for any development” the Deputy Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Carlo Scaramella said.
Recent Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO ) and WFP estimates show that within Syria 6.3 million people are highly vulnerable and in critical need of sustained food and agricultural assistance and more than 3 million refugees are in need of assistance outside Syria. The protracted political, economic and social crisis in Yemen has taken a heavy toll on food security: 10.6 million people are in need of food assistance, 5 million of whom are severely food insecure. In Gaza, already before the seven-week conflict, a staggering 72 percent of families were food insecure or vulnerable to food insecurity, and 70 percent lived on less than USD2 per day. In Iraq, where in 1990-92 only 8 percent of its population was undernourished, the prevalence of undernourishment stands now at 23 percent.
"But this does not mean that we shall lose our hopes, on the opposite. As highlighted in the SOFI 2014 report, if stability and political commitment backed by actionable programmes and resources are in place, advances in the achievement of food security are not only possible but can actually happen in a short period of the time. " stated Mr. Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, FAO Assistant Director General and Regional Representative for the North Africa and the Near East. “.
SOFI 2014 highlights this year how access to food has improved rapidly and significantly in countries that have experienced overall economic progress.
With the number of undernourished people remaining "unacceptably high", FAO and WFP representatives stressed the need to renew the political commitment and coordinate regional efforts to tackle undernourishment.
"Food insecurity and malnutrition are complex problems that need to be tackled through an integrated and coordinated approach" they stated, and appealed for regional and international solidarity in support of refugees, displaced and vulnerable populations in the region.
In February 2014, during the 32nd session of the FAO Regional Conference for the Near East, member countries of the region endorsed a regional food security strategy that outlines key policy actions at national, regional and international levels to improve accessibility and affordability of food for the region’s population. "Coordinated regional efforts can support national action to achieve food security. Regional efforts are gaining momentum and countries in the region are strengthening their efforts to achieve food security, despite and beyond the current situation." Mr. Ould Ahmed added.