Around 52 million in Near East, North Africa, suffering chronic undernourishment, new UN food agency report reveals
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United Nations, May 9 (Canadian-Media/UN); Hunger continues to rise as conflicts and protracted crises have worsened in the Near East and North Africa region (NENA), which is likely to affect food security for years to come, warned the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) yesterday, UN reports said.
Image Credit: © UNICEF/Taha Almahbashi: Millions of children across Yemen face serious threats due to malnutrition, (file 2018)
“Conflicts and civil instability have long-lasting impacts on the food and nutrition security of both affected and surrounding countries in the regions”, Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, Assistant Director-General and NENA Representative of the (FAO) said, noting that more than two-thirds of hungry people there live in conflict-affected countries, threatening efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the key goal of Zero Hunger.
FAO’s Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition in the Near East and North Africa underscores that since 2011, 52 million people across the region now suffer from chronic undernourishment – with stunting, wasting and undernutrition amplified by fighting.
“The impact of conflict has been disrupting food and livestock production in some countries and consequently affecting the availability of food across the region”, Mr. Ould Ahmed said.
"Rising hunger is also compounded by rapid population growth, scarce and fragile natural resources, the growing threat of climate change, increasing unemployment rates, and diminished rural infrastructure and services", he added.
The report also highlights that as the region hosts the highest obesity rates, it puts pressure on people’s health, national health systems and economies. Addressing this means raising public awareness and ensuring access to healthy nutritious food.
Abolishing rural-urban differences
The report shows that not only do conflicts undermine the region’s Zero Hunger efforts, but also rural development.
“Countries that are not in conflict and have gone furthest in transforming rural areas in a sustainable way including through better management of water resources, have achieved better food security and nutrition outcomes than those in conflict or with lower levels of rural transformation”, Mr. Ould Ahmed observed, noting that more efforts are needed to boost rural employment, stimulate economic growth, reduce urban-rural gaps and improve agricultural productivity and rural infrastructure and services.
The report also highlights that unemployment in NENA, particularly for young people and women, is a significant regional challenge and that while rural areas accommodate some 40 per cent of the population, the average agriculture wage is generally far lower than those outside the sector. This factors into why rural poverty is about twice as high as that in urban areas.
Looking towards solutions, improved market access for farmers, investments in agriculture, technology transference and key policy changes that shift from subsistence farming to commercial and diversified production systems, can all help improve food production.
Highlighting the region’s potential to produce products that require less water and more labour, Mr. Ould Ahmed concluded: “There is a great need to encourage our region’s farmers to produce according to the comparative advantage of the region”.
Hundreds of wounded Gaza protesters risk limb amputation without immediate help, warns top UN official
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United Nations, May 8 (Canadian-Media/UN): Millions of dollars in emergency funding is needed in Gaza to save the shattered limbs of some 1,700 people who have been seriously injured in demonstrations against Israel along the border fence, a top United Nations (UN) humanitarian official said today, UN reports said.
Image Credit: UNRWA/Khalil Adwan: UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Jamie McGoldrick (centre), visits patients in Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, along with doctors and WHO's representative.
In an appeal for $20 million to help victims hurt during protests dubbed the Great March of Return – weekly rallies on Fridays by Gazans that began a year ago, leaving 29,000 people injured, many by live ammunition - Jamie McGoldrick, Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), said that more resources were urgently required.
“The health structures really are in bad shape and that’s why we have put this appeal out for $20 million to address the needs of those 1,700 people, but also to support the health system”, he said.
“Of that 29,000, 7,000 have been shot with live ammunition and those are the ones who have been treated at facilities that are under very serious stress anyway”, Mr. McGoldrick added.
To date, some 120 amputations have taken place since the beginning of the demonstrations, according to the UN official, with 20 children among the amputees.
‘Running against the clock’
“We are running against the clock for some of these cases and osteomyelitis - bone infection - will be a crisis, and the need is to treat that, prevent that, otherwise we will have amputations,” he said. “The technical abilities of doctors on the ground to carry out treatment required for the 1,700 (injured demonstrators) just doesn’t exist.”
Speaking in Geneva following a lull in deadly violence over the weekend at the Israel-Gaza border between militant groups in Gaza – which is controlled by Hamas - and Israeli security forces, Mr. McGoldrick insisted on the need for dialogue to address the dire economic and humanitarian situation there.
He confirmed that UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, was in Cairo to reinforce the fragile Gaza ceasefire deal reportedly mediated by Egypt, adding that he hoped this would allow humanitarian deliveries to resume “because we were prevented from doing work, because of the insecurity and instability”.
Today, average household debt in Gaza is $4,000, the UN official explained, noting that average salaries are $400 a month. The situation has been made worse by chronically high youth unemployment and the fact that the UN’s $350 million humanitarian appeal for 2019 is funded at only 14 per cent.
“It’s not going to get any better, it’s getting worse,” he said. “If you look at the number of shops that have closed because of debt…people are using all sorts of means, selling assets, doctors going abroad leaving the family and sending remittances back, we’re hearing that the indebted nature of some of the poorest families is quite heavy.”
During the recent military activity, hundreds of rockets were launched from Gaza by Palestinian militants into southern Israel, and hundreds of airstrikes and tank rounds were fired in return, causing 29 fatalities in Gaza and four in Israel, along with some 200 casualties on each side.
“The situation is very precarious,” Mr. McGoldrick said. “And I think the need for a political solution is all the more highlighted because of how easy it is to slip into something very quickly.”