SDG 2 Background Note
Food security in the Arab region was already fragile prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the outbreak has exposed further vulnerabilities. The region relies heavily on food imports, making it vulnerable to the unpredictability and inequities of global trade (SDGs 1, 8, 10 and 17). Moreover, agricultural productivity is low in most Arab countries, and agricultural practices are often unsustainable, diminishing the medium- and long-term availability and affordability of food (SDGs 6, 7, 9 and 12). The pandemic’s impact on food security has been exacerbated by pre- existing factors, including water scarcity, climate change, rapid population growth, and increasing urbanization (SDGs 6, 7, 11 and 13). Even before the pandemic, hunger and undernourishment were increasing in some Arab countries, mainly because of protracted conflict, while pockets of severe forms of malnutrition were also found across the region. Women and children are particularly affected by persistently high levels of stunting and wasting, and growing levels of overweight and obesity (SDGs 3 and 5).
Structured and tailored investments in sustainable agriculture and in the wider use of knowledge and technologies are vital to increasing agricultural productivity and resilience. Ending conflict is also a necessary prerequisite. Regional cooperation is essential to shore up resilience and to advance a common agenda to improve the governance of global trade. Furthermore, improvements in nutrition practices, including breastfeeding, and diets, are essential to accelerate progress in reducing the different forms of child malnutrition and population obesity.