An ongoing food crisis in the Middle East and North Africa is set to deteriorate further as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to disrupt food supply chains and humanitarian aid efforts, four UN regional directors said in a joint statement on Wednesday.
“Countries in the region already facing food crisis are hit hardest by the pandemic. The pandemic has further exacerbated challenges in Afghanistan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen in the quantity, frequency and diversity of the food children and families consume,” the statement, which was signed by the regional directors of UNICEF, the Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Programme, and the World Health Organization, read.
According to the United Nations, nearly 40 million people in Afghanistan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen were impacted by food shortages in 2019, and the COVID-19 outbreak may exacerbate existing crises or create new ones. Consequently, the UN is calling on the international community to help efforts to ensure food supplies in the region.
“We call on governments, international development partners, donors and the private sector to address the availability, access and affordability of safe and nutritious foods and to protect the nutrition of the most vulnerable families, children, pregnant and lactating women across the region, while implementing the necessary health, prevention and control measures,” the statement read.
Based on data from 2019, the World Food Programme estimated in an April report that 183 million people in 47 countries were at risk of facing a crisis in food availability if another societal, political, or economic shock were to occur.