The pandemic has unleashed extreme poverty last year for the first time in more than two decades. The UN warned during the briefing of the Security Council on January 6th, 2021, Wednesday that conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have borne a cycle of poverty, fragility, and rigidity to disharmony.
The UN estimates that economic contraction caused by the pandemic is expected to push an additional 18 to 27 million people into extreme poverty in nations devastated by conflict, while 51 million people worldwide are already displaced internally.
"Conflicts have become more complex, fueled by greater regionalization, the proliferation of non-state armed groups, and their linkages with criminal and even terrorist interests. They last longer and become more difficult to resolve," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Output in the MENA regions is estimated to have contracted by 5 percent in 2020 as the pandemic resulted in the sharp fall in oil prices and oil demand, according to World Bank's latest statistics. Although a slow-paced growth is expected to improve to a modest 2.1 percent in 2021, data also shows one in five people in MENA resides close to a major conflict zone. Consequently, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has increased to the highest levels since World War II.
"To overcome the impacts of the pandemic and counter the investment headwind, there needs to be a major push to improve business environments, increase labour and product market flexibility, and strengthen transparency and governance," said David Malpass, President of the World Bank Group. The World Bank stresses that the policymakers in each country need to continue to recover gradually by shifting from income support to growth-enhancing policies.
To end the vicious cycle of poverty and war and to implement the UN's 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, Guterres urged the adoption of two principles – interdependence and inclusion, in conflict-stricken countries.