The conflict has severely disrupted food imports to the region, the UN children's agency said, adding if the situation persists it could impact children in Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Rising food prices as a result of the Russian offensive in Ukraine are increasing the risk of malnutrition for millions of children in the Middle East and North Africa.
Families are struggling to put food on the table during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when observant Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset, the UN children’s agency UNICEF said on Thursday.
The organisation warned that if the situation continues, it will severely impact children in the region, especially in Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
These countries had been struggling with conflicts and severe economic crises even before the conflict in Europe began.
“With ongoing conflicts, political instability, the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine crisis, the region is witnessing unprecedented hikes in food prices coupled with low purchasing power,” said Adele Khodr, UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.
She added that the number of malnourished children is likely to drastically increase.
The ripple effect of the continuing war in Ukraine is compounding the impacts of two long years of the COVID-19 pandemic on economies, employment and poverty in the MENA region, where more than 90 per cent of food is imported.— UNICEF MENA - يونيسف الشرق الأوسط وشمال إفريقيا (@UNICEFmena) April 7, 2022
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Disrupted food imports
Countries in the Middle East and North Africa have been hard hit by wars and poverty and the coronavirus has only made things worse.
Russian troops began attacking Ukraine on February 24, and since then, intense fighting in different parts of the country has disrupted food exports.
Ukraine and Russia account for a third of global wheat and barley exports, which countries in the Middle East rely on to feed millions of people who subsist on subsidised bread and bargain noodles.
They are also top exporters of other grains and the sunflower seed oil that is used for cooking.
Countries in the Middle East and North Africa import more than 90% of the food they consume.
UNICEF says that only 36 percent of young children in the region are receiving the diets they need to grow and develop in a healthy way.
The organisation named Yemen, Sudan, Lebanon and Syria as the most impacted by the conflict in Ukraine.
In those countries, over 9.1 million children are under the age of 5, and a total of almost 13.8 million children and women are in need of nutrition interventions, according to UNICEF.