This one-day convening will address emerging food-related challenges and solutions in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region. Themes will include food insecurity, the rapid increase of obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs), climate change, and opportunities to re-engineer the region´s food system to leverage health and environmental benefits.
The current global food system is unsustainable both in terms of human health and the natural environment. Unhealthy diets are one of the major drivers of obesity and NCDs worldwide. Food production accounts for up to a third of the global greenhouse gas emissions and is the single most important cause of environmental damage. With existing trends in population growth and changing diets, global food production will increase dramatically before 2050.
For the MENA region, these challenges are even more acute. Importing half of the total food consumed and using 89% of the freshwater for agricultural use, makes MENA the most food-import-dependent and water-constrained region in the world. The region also faces an epidemic of diet-related obesity and NCDs, and has the highest prevalence of diabetic adults in the world.
At the same time, MENA is the only region in the world showing an increase in undernourishment over the past two decades.
As these food-related health and environmental challenges are highly intertwined, a multitude of synergies and win-wins can be achieved by developing integrated strategies. However, despite the global magnitude of these challenges, the majority of solutions remain local. Thus, the solutions must be carefully tailored to respond to the particular geographical, cultural and socio-economic context of the given region or country. An initial step in the required, coordinated multi-stakeholder effort is the identification of barriers and facilitators for transforming diets and food import practices. This will be a key objective for the event.