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Impact of COVID-19 in the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe Update #5 September 2020

Originally published


Key Messages

• An additional 14.3 million people are expected to fall below the poverty line in the Arab Middle-Income Countries (MICs) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs), and an additional 1.9 million people will become undernourished.

• Projections for economic growth in MENA indicate a contraction of 5.7 percent by end of fiscal year 2020, with some countries shrinking up to 13 percent.

• Unemployment is also forecasted to rise sharply in 2021 in the region, especially in Jordan (20.5 percent), and Iran (14.4 percent).

• Currency devaluation in Lebanon and Syria are the highest in the region, followed by Sudan, Iran, and Libya.

• Remittances are expected to decline in Europe and Central Asia by 28 percent in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak in addition to the lower oil prices.

• National policies on taxation of sugary drinks, nutrition labelling, and non-communicable diseases (NCD)-specific are existent only in Armenia, Egypt, and Tunisia, and completely non-existent in Jordan, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, and Yemen. Existence of such policies would prevent and control risk factors during the pandemic outbreak for people with NCDs.

• Ultra-processed foods, which have a limited nutritional value are quite popular in the region, especially in Lebanon and Armenia.

• Women experienced more economic difficulties than men in purchasing medicines and food in several countries.

• Women account for around 40 percent of COVID-19 cases, ranging between 35 percent to over 55 percent.

• Compared to men, women experience higher psychological distress due to COVID-19 as women face gender disparities when accessing quality health care.

• WFP sustained continuity of humanitarian relief services throughout the pandemic, and has responded through various activities, including cash transfers, school feeding, food and in-kind, assessments, livelihood activities, and technical assistance, all while maintaining hygiene and safety measures.

The objective of this analysis is to provide an overview and update on the potential impact of COVID-19 on food security, the economy, and the nutrition status in the region. In this update, a gender and protection lens is reflected, as well as an overview of the different responses from WFP in the region to absorb the COVID-19 shock. The analysis is based on secondary desk review from various sources. This document was developed in consultation with country offices, as well as the various programme units in RBC.