ESCWA Publication: E/ESCWA/CL1.CCS/2020/1
Publication Type: Reports & studies
Cluster: Climate Change and Natural Resource Sustainability
Keywords: Agriculture, Arab countries, Climate change, Crops, Food security, Irrigation, Covid-19, Food imports
Arab Food Security: Vulnerabilities and Pathways
As the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the world, food security vulnerabilities further weakened the Arab region’s ability to respond. Pre-pandemic, the region’s food security situation showed that up to 27 per cent of the population (116 million people) experienced food insecurity. Undernourishment and adult obesity were rampant, affecting 10 and 26 per cent of the population, respectively. The present report analyses the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic regarding food availability, unequal access and deficient utilization, including changes in consumer behaviours. It also puts in context rising vulnerabilities in terms of natural resources scarcity, socioeconomic shocks, food import dependency, and the increasing impact of conflict.
The report highlights that although conditions are expected to improve in 2022 in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, food supply will remain a challenge as local availability will be slightly lower than projected levels before the pandemic. Cereal production has been and will remain below 40 per cent of requirements and given its sizable contribution to the diet, the region will continue to depend on global markets for its food needs. Crises-affected countries face complex food security challenges owing to economic shocks, destroyed infrastructure, socio-political crises and armed conflict, whose impact deepened during the pandemic. Addressing food security in the region will require vision and governance mechanisms that enhance the agility, robustness and functioning of food systems. Governments need to address existing macroeconomic difficulties, while responding to rising natural resource constraints through technological innovations, regional collaboration and partnerships, support to the private sector, and the development of a sustainable and inclusive regional food industry.