The UN food agency said Friday that conflicts in the Near East and North Africa were having a devastating effect on food security in the region, with children particularly vulnerable to chronic hunger.
“The food security situation is deteriorating in a dramatic way in the region,” said Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for North Africa and the Near East.
“The number of people suffering hunger has increased from 16 million in 1990 to 33 million today, and it is the only region in the world where poverty and hunger are on the increase,” he told AFP.
His warning came as 25 countries from the Near East and North Africa signed a declaration which acknowledged “the need for stability and peace for any development effort to bear fruits in the short, medium and long term”.
They expressed deep concern over the lack of food and the nutrition situation “particularly among children in the Near East and North Africa Region, as a consequence of conflict and protracted crisis”.
Ould Ahmed said one of FAO’s main roles in the region was providing assistance to farmers so they can remain on their land when it is safe to do so — a move critical to preventing mass displacement and which also lays the foundations for rebuilding.
The food agency released a statement saying rural areas and their populations continue to be the most affected in conflict situations.
“The destruction of crops, livestock and markets undermines rural livelihoods and displaces people from their homes,” FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva was quoted as saying.
“Food insecurity can undermine the peace process and restart the cycle of violence,” he added.