Good health is the foundation of successful education outcomes and productive engagement in society. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is currently facing a number of health threats including, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the “triple burden of malnutrition – the coexistence of food insecurity, undernutrition, and overweight and obesity”. The conflicts of the region have also increased the number of reported cases of diseases resulting from poor health care and poverty, such as a vast cholera epidemic in Yemen and a polio outbreak in Syria, both of which are likely to lead to the suffering of lifelong effects.
Mental health is equally important as physical health to quality of life and wellbeing. The conflicts in the MENA region mean that millions are displaced, social safety nets are broken, and families torn apart. Depression, anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are rampant, leaving people vulnerable to the pressures of extremist ideologies. PTSD in children is often the cause of learning difficulties and disabilities.
As people of the region suffer from a wide array of health and social issues, some have turned to harmful substances when feeling hopeless: Iran and Afghanistan are particularly affected by high rates of drug addiction.