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Impact of COVID-19 in the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe Update #4 July 2020

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Key Messages

• Pressure on prices is still high in countries of the region that have been facing economic crises even before COVID-19 outbreak, such as Sudan and Lebanon. In June, annual headline inflation in Sudan was as high as 136 percent (up 19 percent compared to May 2020)

• In terms of the cost of food basket, Syria, Lebanon and Sudan reported the highest monthly increase; Syria (48 percent), followed by Lebanon (34 percent) and Sudan (26.9 percent). The increase is even more pronounced on a longer time frame (3m) at 65, 58 and 31 respectively.

• In June 2020, wheat flour prices varied across the region with the most expensive price seen in Jordan at USD 0.8/Kg. Iraq is the country with the widest gap between the minimum and maximum wheat flour prices (USD 0.56 per Kg).

• Food systems transformation is needed to address the problem of millions of people not being able to afford healthy diets because of high food price and income constraints.

• Limitation of movements and reduced industrial activities may be among the leading reasons behind lower environmental pollution.

• The effects of the pandemic on affected communities’ food security are compounded by preexisting drivers of humanitarian and development needs such as conflict, poverty, displacement, discrimination and inequality. Refugees, IDPs and migrants find themselves at the intersection of many of the health, socio-economic and protection problems caused by the pandemic and are at heightened risk of poverty, hunger and marginalization.

• The COVID-19 crisis unfolds at a time when the number of food-insecure people in Yemen and Syria has already risen after years of conflict and economic downturn. Starting from April 2020, households’ inadequate food consumption increased reaching in June 34 percent in Syria and 36 percent in Yemen.

• Levels of poor and borderline food consumption significantly increased among displaced households: in June around 40 percent of the IDPs in Syria and Yemen are consuming an inadequate diet, the highest percentage recorded in 2020.

• Ongoing conflict and displacement, significant price increases, and precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, are reducing households purchasing power and their ability to maintain their livelihood. In Syria 64 percent reported having lost part or their total income and in Yemen around 60 percent of the households reported not having a single working member in their households.

• Access to markets and grocery shops, the main source of food for households, has also been negatively impacted and around a third of the surveyed respondents in Syria and Yemen reported being unable to reach the market to purchase food.

• The healthcare system in both countries (Syria and Yemen) have been already affected by years of conflict and they are struggling to contain the emergency and to provide the necessary treatment. In Syria around 14 percent of the households reported facing challenges accessing hospitals and clinics and this percentage goes as high as 45 percent in Yemen, where only 51% of health centers are fully functional with limited medicine and equipment available.

• With movement restrictions and decreased funding, around 10 percent in Syria and 30 percent in Yemen are reporting facing more challenges to access humanitarian assistance.

• In Iraq, 3 out of 5 women access to food decreased, making them more prone to food insecurity.