Food Insecurity In MENA Region Exacerbated by Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

Food Insecurity In MENA Region Exacerbated by Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
Source: © Nora Younis/Flickr


Laura Libertini

Europe and Human Rights Researcher,

Global Human Rights Defence.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is affecting food pricing and the import-export ratio of wheat and wheat-based products, further exacerbating hunger in regions where food insecurity represents a constant threat (ISPI, 2022). The Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region is being severely affected by the consequences of the war, deepening inequalities and worsening rising food prices. Ukraine and Russia represent the primary exporters of agricultural products to MENA countries, and the largest part of Ukraine’s wheat production originates in areas where the conflict is more concentrated, i.e., eastern Ukraine. As for Russia, the country is the primary supplier of wheat and one of the largest producers of fertilizer, two aspects that are already being disrupted by the war.

In 2020, Ukraine accounted for around 80 percent of Lebanon's total wheat imports while 15 percent came from Russia. Now, Lebanon is severely rationing its wheat reserves while attempting to import from Canada, Australia, and the U.S.

As for Syria, the country suffers from serious wheat shortages due to the consequences of its domestic economic crisis, the armed conflict, and the severe drought of the last decade. At the moment, the deal with Russia to import wheat is suspended and imports from Turkey have been interrupted, as Turkey imports its grain from Ukraine.

In 2021, Egypt imported approximately 80 percent of wheat from Russia and Ukraine, confirming Egypt as one of the most important importers of Russian and Ukrainian grain. In Egypt, more than 70 million people rely on subsidized bread, a policy to ensure affordable access to food. However, those countries that still rely on subsidized food – Egypt and Tunisia – are considering the removal of subsidies.  

It is imperative for policymakers and central governments to protect the right to food and to live a decent life. The disruptions caused by the pandemic and by climate change-related hazards are being rapidly worsened by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and a global food crisis of this magnitude can only be tackled by timely intervention and international cooperation.

Sources and further reading:

Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Exacerbates Hunger in Middle East, North Africa. (2022, March 21). Human Rights Watch. 

War in Ukraine: A food crisis in the MENA region? (2022, March 10). ISPI.