Rise in hunger levels in NENA region of great concern

Director-General addresses the 37th session of FAO Regional Ministerial Conference for the Near East and North Africa

The situation in Gaza, coupled with protracted crises in Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, is of “great concern,” QU Dongyu, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), said as he addressed the 37th session of the FAO Regional Ministerial Conference for the Near East and North Africa (NENA).

The conference in Amman brought together government officials, academics and representatives of the private sector and civil society from the region and took place against the backdrop of a worrying rise in hunger and malnutrition estimates.

According to FAO’s latest figures, hunger in the Arab States reached its highest value since the start of the millennium in 2022, with 59.8 million undernourished people. This represents a 75.9 per cent increase from 2000, which corresponds to 12.9 per cent of the population, well above the global average of 9.2 per cent.

The situation has since reached a critical point in Gaza, where the population is experiencing catastrophic levels of conflict-induced food insecurity and a high risk of famine.

During his address to the conference, Qu emphasised the crucial role played by FAO in Gaza, particularly in terms of providing emergency relief and participating in rebuilding efforts. FAO is part of the joint UN flash appeal and is closely coordinating with the wider UN family and partners in responding most appropriately and effectively, in line with its mandate.

FAO has also issued a call for $20 million in the Nov 2023 UN Interagency Flash Appeal and plans to reactivate the production of perishable, highly nutritious food that cannot be imported as food aid, including fresh milk, meat, and vegetables, Qu said.

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