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CAIRO: A third of people in the 420-million-strong Arab world do not have enough to eat, the United Nations said Thursday, highlighting that 69 million suffered from malnutrition last year.

In a report, the world body's Food and Agriculture Organization said that between 2019 and 2020, the number of malnourished in the Arab world rose by 4.8 million people to 69 million, nearly 16 percent of the population.

"The increase in the levels of undernourishment has occurred across all income levels, in conflict-affected as well as non-conflict countries," the FAO said.

"In addition, nearly 141 million people did not have access to adequate food in 2020 -- an increase of more than 10 million people since 2019."

Sharp jump in number of people facing famine: UN

It said the Covid-19 pandemic "brought another major shock", with the number of undernourished people in the region increasing by 4.8 million compared with 2019.

Conflict-hit Somalia and Yemen remained the worst-affected countries last year, with nearly 60 percent of Somalis going hungry and more than 45 percent of Yemenis undernourished.

"Yemen had the highest prevalence of anaemia in 2020, affecting 61.5 percent of women of reproductive age," it said.

The FAO said hunger has increased by 91.1 percent in the Arab world over the past two decades.

"Rates of stunting (20.5 percent) and overweight (10.7 percent) among children under five years of age were high in 2020," the FAO noted.

It said adult obesity, especially in the richer Arab states, was also on the rise.

"The latest year estimate for the Arab region shows that 28.8 percent of the adult population was obese, i.e. more than double the global average of 13.1 percent.

"High-income countries exhibited the highest prevalence of adult obesity in the region whereas the low-income countries had the lowest levels."

UN

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