Conflicts, water scarcity compound Middle East food insecurity – FAO

Conflicts are impeding the fight against hunger in the Near East region, where growing food insecurity is compounded by rising water scarcity and a challenging natural resource situation that is exacerbated by climate change, FAO Director-General Graziano da Silva said.

He stressed how recent significant progress in curbing hunger is being eroded by the impact of strife in countries such as Iraq, Syria and Yemen, as well as in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Despite the progress made by individual countries, the number of undernourished in the broader Near East and North Africa region doubled between 1990 and 2015, while the prevalence of undernourishment increased by 30 percent, Graziano da Silva told a meeting of agriculture ministers attending FAO’s regional confence on the near east..

The situation was particular serious in Syria where 6.5 million people have been internally displaced while more than 4.8 million have fled to neighbouring countries and elsewhere. Half of the Syrian population that remains in the country is in need of food assistance.

Among the most serious challenges facing the Near East region is “an unprecedented escalation in water scarcity” with the average availability of fresh water per capita standing at just 10 percent of the world average.

Factors contributing to this include growth of urban populations, which diverts water away from agriculture with negative consequences for food security and the rural economy.

In addition, climate change “exacerbates existing vulnerabilities to natural hazards such as drought,” the FAO Director-General said.

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