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Deterioration of Food (In)security in the South Mediterranean and MENA Region in Times of Covid-19

Dec 15, 2020

This brief focuses on food insecurity in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, with specific examples from the South Mediterranean (Maghreb, Mashreq) countries, and on how it is aggravating during a global shock such as the Covid-19 pandemic. It examines the socio-economic situation on the ground and proposes recommendations to absorb crucial negative impacts resulting from consequences on the agricultural sector and advocates for the development of systems that can generate enhanced regional food sufficiency. 2. Introduction [The Covid-19 pandemic] “will confront MENA countries with both a negative supply shock and a negative demand shock”[1].


According to the latest World Bank Economic Update for the Middle East and North Africa, the region is suffering from a considerable reduction in labor activity due to containment measures as well as disruptions in input supplies to production due to the disruption of global value chains; in return, the demand for regional economic services and outputs such as tourism and oil are decreasing. The latter is particularly crucial for the economies of selected MENA countries where the situation has, as anticipated[2], been deteriorating. Meanwhile, “freedom from hunger and malnutrition” was declared a basic human right in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights[3].


“ Zero Hunger” is Goal 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), designed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 as part of the Agenda 2030 to achieve a better and more sustainable future. The aim is to reduce malnutrition, stop the expected increase of the number of people facing food insecurity (if food production is not increased by 50% by 2050, 2 billion out of 10 billion globally will be food insecure[4]), and develop a more sustainable, people-centered approach to agriculture in order to limit the further worsening of the climate crisis (Goal 13).


Additionally, and consequently, the goal of Zero Hunger is evidently linked to ending poverty (Goal 1), good health (Goal 3), gender equality (Goal 5), decent work and economic growth (Goal 8), consumption and production patterns (Goal 12), desertification and land degradation (Goal 15), peace (Goal 16) and partnerships (Goal 17), highlighting the relevance of eradicating hunger [5]. 


This article is part of the CMI/FEMISE joint “COVID-19 Med Policy Brief Series”, aimed at addressing the urgent issue of the COVID-19 socio-economic effects and impact on the EU-Mediterranean region.


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