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Impact of the economic crisis and food and fuel price volatility on children and women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region

Working papers

Written by Nicola Jones, Caroline Harper

Commissioned by the UNICEF Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa, this paper assesses the evidence about the current and potential impacts of the ‘Triple F crisis’ (food, fuel, financial) on children and women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). It draws on an analytical framework developed by ODI’s Social Development Programme to assess the impacts of economic crises on children’s experiences of poverty and vulnerability, and how government and donor policy responses could determine the severity of these impacts. Drawing on existing quantitative datasets as well as more in-depth analysis from six countries -- Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen -- the report highlights the diversity of MENA countries’ vulnerability to the global economic crisis as well as their differing capacities to respond to its social impacts, based on pre-existing macro-economic health and policy infrastructure.

The paper finds that the crisis is already undermining children’s rights along a number of dimensions, including increased food insecurity and related risks of child malnutrition; rising rates of school dropouts in poorer countries in the region, with concerns about rising child protection threats (including harmful forms of child labour); rising vulnerability among migrant, refugee and IDP families; and significant impacts on the employment prospects of young people, already a major concern in many parts of the region. 

While governments in the region have responded swiftly to the crisis with fiscal stimulus packages in a number of cases, the report points out that social protection responses to support the growing number of newly poor and vulnerable have been limited, with little focs on age- and gender-specific vulnerabilities. Policies  to support migrants, refugees and IDPs have not yet been introduced and require urgent policy attention from national governments and international agencies alike.

The paper calls on governments in the region to embrace the crisis as an opportunity to strengthen social sector spending (especially in health which has not kept pace with GDP growth over the last decade) and social protection systems, and in doing so to pay particular attention to deprivations faced by women, children and youth. In order to ensure that policies are effectively tailored, crisis monitoring efforts which are age and sex-disaggregated, are urgently needed.  

Nicola Jones, Caroline Harper, Sara Pantuliano and Sara Pavanello with Kim Kyunghoon, Shreya Mitra and Katie Chalcraft