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Über dieses Buch

This book provides a survey of technologies available to tackle the problems associated with climate change in the energy, water and food security nexus with a special focus on the Middle East. It is divided into three main sections. The energy Section consists of six chapters, the water section of seven chapters and finally the food security section has six chapters. The individual chapters are authored by experts and provide discussions and in-depth views on the current status of each topic.





Climate Change and Water Science Policy in Management

Water sustains life, the environment and development. Human rights to water, as water is becoming a commodity threatens the poor. Global water crisis in term of quantity and quality is a man-made disaster linked to environmental imbalance and degradation of the life-support ecosystem. It is a crisis of water management, fragmented institutions, inadequate policies and legal systems, lack of political will, and a widening gap between science and policy making at the national, regional and global levels. Already one third of the world population is living in water-scarce or water-short areas. Climate change will accelerate the figure to one-half. 12% of the world’s population uses 85% of its fresh water. And water supply resources are being stretched to their limits. By 2050 an additional three billion people will be born mostly in countries already suffering from water shortage.
According to the IPCC-Nov 2014 report, the world’s electricity must be produced from zero carbon sources by 2050; otherwise, our planet faces irreversible damage. The report says renewables have to grow from 30% share of the power sector to 80%. And all fossil fuel generation without carbon capture and storage (CCS) has to be phased out by 2100.
Global warming is unequivocally linked to human interference in the ecosystem, causing glaciers to melt on the polar ice caps resulting in the rise of sea level flooding of agricultural coastal areas. The Nile delta, which is the food basket of Egypt housing 46 million people, may disappear. Coastal fresh water aquifers may be flooded by seeping seawater threatening food security of many large regions of the world.
With the advent of climate change, most of water stressed areas particularly in arid and semi-arid zones (Middle East and MENA regions) will face a rainfall decline of 20% and a temperature rise of 2–3 °C that would result in large losses of water resources, basic food, basic needs, and increased poverty.
Water science is a “must” in developing a unique water management scheme. It contributes to well-defined policies for efficiency, sound strategy and sustainable plans of action. There is unlimited potential with what science can do on our planet, where salt water and fresh water comprise 97.5% and 2.5% of planet waters, respectively. With 70% of waters tied in polar caps, only 30% is left in rivers, lakes and ground waters to humanity.
Food production accounts for 70% of water used in the world. Through the efficient use of water by renewables for desalination, recycling water for agriculture, using new cultivars under stress of low level of waters and brackish waters and genomes resistant to pests and droughts etc., have to intrigue scientists in our part of the world to find a lasting solution to the challenging problem.
Fundamental change in water policies and engaging science to develop a unique water management scheme is imperative. Currently, water policies are divorced from sound science. Demands should be managed by a new culture of efficiency, cutting losses, and protecting water from overuse and pollution.
There is no doubt that the Climate change and Water – Energy – Food security Nexus in the Arab Middle East, is becoming more complex due to rapid population growth and growing demands by industrial and agricultural developments. Therefore, science becomes crucial in providing the basis for sound governance and a holistic approach enlightened policy linked to energy and water management for sound food security. The potential of what modern science R&D can do is without limits.
Adnan Badran

The Triangle: Energy, Water & Food Nexus for Sustainable Security in the Arab Middle East

This chapter examines water security in the broader relationships governing the Food-Water-Energy-Climate Nexus. It particularly stresses the role of the great global transmissions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in presenting intractable barriers to returning to less complicated eras of resource conflicts. These transitions are manifest in total and urban populations’ growth and shift to urbanization; radical shifts in the nutrition demanded by the new economic and social developments; the radical changes in land use and chemicals in agriculture; a rapid shift in emphasis on renewable energy resources and reduced reliance on fossil fuels; and finally the great challenge of climate change. All of these transitions have major implications for water security both globally, and regionally. Globally this is well articulated by DuBois (The case for “energy-smart food for people and climate”. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, World Food Day-Oct 16, 2015):
Our agrifood systems currently consume 30 percent of the world’s available energy—with more than 70 percent occurring beyond the farm gate, and produce about 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. More than one third of the food we produce is lost or wasted, and with it about 38 percent of the energy consumed in the agrifood chain.
To this we can add that the greatest loss of water in the overall national water balances is that of the water used to grow the food that is wasted.
While the water security situation for the Arab Middle East Region is generally considered bleak, the paper is fairly optimistic that, at least water resource use, until 2050 will be still manageable if the eleven “technical fixes,” outlined in the paper are pursued. These technical fixes are not to be construed as purely engineering the water supply, but fixes to many of the economic and social barriers to a more secure water future. They cover major national policy choices such as international trade in virtual water, traditional water engineering of traditional and non-traditional sources, improving efficiency in use via agronomic research, improvement of post harvest food and value chains, and softer options such as trading among users, pricing, rationalizing property rights and legal protection for third parties.
Peter Rogers

Water, Food and Trade as an Element of the Water-Energy-Food Nexus in the MENA Region

The purpose of the analysis will be to provide an introduction to the architecture of the Water-Energy-Food Nexus. It will be argued that recognising this architecture could be helpful in three ways. First, it could enable public policy-makers to identify the risks of business as usual approaches to managing water and energy. Secondly, it highlights – for the key private sector players in the water, energy and food supply chains – the importance of stewarding the ecosystems of water, biodiversity and the atmosphere. Thirdly, the supply chains architecture enables water and energy scientists and professionals to engage with nexus science and nexus practice more effectively. The analysis will focus on the water, food and trade sub-nexus and the need to understand the operation of this sub-nexus in the Middle East.
J. A. (Tony) Allan

Water and Water Supply in The MENA: Less of the Same

The MENA is the region of the world likely to be the most highly and negatively impacted by climate change. The challenges of the coming century will be severe but also familiar to the policy-makers and technical experts of the region. The challenges have characterized the region throughout history. They differ now only in degree not in kind.
The challenges do not lie in technology: technological solutions are known and understood. The challenges lie in public policy which is opaque and poorly understood. The public policy challenge is compounded by the fact that four major Arab states—Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq—are no longer capable of coherent and comprehensive policy-making.
We ask, what are the parameters of ground water policy and management? What is the role of pricing in the allocation of water? How will states go about organizing their trade for virtual water and agricultural produce?
Policy change and innovation is often driven by crisis. Is that the case in the MENA? The major instance of crisis-driven change was evident in the 1970s and 1980s as the region’s states grappled with structural adjustment. By contrast the crises looming in the water and food sectors are familiar and can be met through familiar policies and without destroying existing political coalitions. Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Saudi Arabia have all undertaken policy initiatives to re-prioritize water use in their economies.
Finally we review the three major transboundary water courses in the region: the Nile, the Jordan and the Tigris-Euphrates. The possibility of uncoerced cooperation in these basins is remote. We explore why that is the case. The best policies now are for riparians to pursue domestic programs of enhanced water efficiency that may stand as benchmarks once, if ever, serious inter-state negotiations begin.
John Waterbury

Water Conservation in the Arab Region

The Arab region covers an area of over 13 million square kilometers, with almost 90% of it is either arid or extremely arid with very little precipitation, extremely high evaporation and almost no vegetation cover. The region is classified in many international reports as the poorest region in the world in the context of renewable water resources and critical water scarcity, which hinders the socio-economic development of many countries in this region. The rapidly increasing population has reduced the per capita share of renewable water to less than the poverty line of 1000 m3/(capita·a) and, in many Arab countries, to less than the extreme poverty line of 500 m3/(capita·a). This has led to over-exploitation of non-renewable groundwater and desalination of salty water in many countries with considerable costs and contamination of many renewable sources. Atmospheric processes responsible for aridity in the Arab region are projected to intensify due to climate change, resulting in an alarming decrease in precipitation and increase in evaporation rates. It is recognized that water security is a key element to achieve food security, socio-economic development and ultimately political stability in the region. Hence, various efforts have been exerted to identify key problems and suggested solutions. The Arab Water Ministers Council of the Arab League, as well as Reports of the Arab Forum for the Environment and Development (AFED) and the recommendations of Regional Meetings of the Arab National Committees of the International Hydrological Programme of UNESCO (IHP), among others, have all made similar recommendations on the need to address the issues of water scarcity in the Arab region. However, water conservation has been endorsed as an important area for coping with water scarcity in the region. There are many definitions of water conservation in the scientific literature, and many areas of action including huge water savings from irrigation, industrial use, and domestic use as well as methods and approaches for augmenting water supply through non-conventional practices such as water harvesting and waste water reuse. In this paper, a review is provided for definitions, methods and impacts of water conservation and its role in alleviating water scarcity in the Arab region.
Abdin M. A. Salih, Gamal M. Abdo

State of the Art and Future Applications of Desalination Technologies in the Middle East

Traditionally desalination has been associated to the Middle East and North Africa economies. However the availability and security of water supplies is today a growing concern and policy priority, both in the traditionally supply-constrained market of the Middle East and, increasingly, in other regions of the world. Water shortage is not only a phenomenon limited to the Middle East, and several large scale desalination projects have been awarded in other areas of the world.
Desalination volumes have nearly doubled since 2000 and it is expected to triple by 2020. Desalinated water supply has grown from 9.8 billion m3/year in 2000 to 18.1 billion m3/year in 2008, reflecting an 8% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). As water stress increases and desalination use expands outside of early-adopting areas like the Middle East, it is forecast that desalinated water volumes will reach 54 billion m3/year in 2020.
Desalination is now used in more than 120 countries around the world. Several large scale projects demonstrated during the last 30 years that it is now technically and economically feasible to generate large volumes of water of suitable purity through the process of desalination of seawater, brackish water, and water reuse. In the past the cost for seawater desalination was below US$ 0.50/m3 in many projects, however due to material cost increase the cost of desalination has subsequently increased to US$ 1–1.5/m3. The present chapter aims at illustrating various state of the art desalination technologies adopted for main industrial projects as well as new emerging technologies aiming at a more sustainable generation of water.
The present chapter also makes a comparison among different technologies based on energy consumption and association with power generation.
Corrado Sommariva



Hydrocarbon Fuels from Lignocellulose

The main motivation for biofuels at present is to enable transportation fuels which do not contribute to global warming. Biofuels made from non-food biomass, collectively called lignocellulose, dramatically reduce the net carbon dioxide emissions from light and heavy duty vehicles. Lignocellulose consists of agricultural residue such as corn stover and sugarcane bagasse, waste from forest trimming, and energy crops such as switchgrass and short rotation poplar trees grown on marginally arable land with little irrigation or fertilizer.
In this chapter, catalytic and microbial routes for the conversion of lignocelluose into hydrocarbon biofuels will be reviewed, and the latest status of commercial development of the various routes will be reported. The biomass conversion routes and the order of the chapter is as follows: biomass gasification, pyrolysis, aqueous phase processing with inorganic catalysts and microbes, and biogas production via anaerobic digestion. There has not yet evolved a single dominant strategy for biomass conversion into fuel.
John R. Regalbuto, Fahad Almalki, Qiuli Liu, Ritubarna Banerjee, Andrew Wong, Jayson Keels

Energy Storage Systems for Smart Grid Applications

Energy storage is a critical component of any initiative to make electric power and mobility more sustainable. As more solar and wind power generation are added to the electric grid, a mismatch between the periods of peak generation and peak demand necessitate some way to store energy and buffer transient fluctuations in the grid. Similarly, to transition from petroleum-based energy for transportation requires renewable technologies for storing energy with high energy density. This chapter addresses energy storage for smart grid systems, with a particular focus on the design aspects of electrical energy storage in lithium ion batteries.
Grid-tied energy storage projects can take many different forms with a variety of requirements. Commercially available technologies such as flywheel energy storage, pumped hydro, ice-based thermal energy storage, and lead acid or lithium ion batteries are already in widespread use. The energy storage industry is rapidly developing, introducing newer technologies such as compressed air energy storage and flow batteries in pilot project demonstrations. The appropriate selection of a particular technology depends on the system requirements for the type of energy to be stored/used, discharge rate, capacity, lifetime, and cost. Lithium ion batteries are a prominent candidate for smart grid applications due to their high specific energy and power, long cycle life, and recent reductions in cost.
Lithium ion system design is truly interdisciplinary. At a cell level, the specific type of Li-ion chemistry affects the feasible capacity, power, and longevity. Electrical, thermal, and mechanical engineering is required to ensure the battery system meets performance requirements while not exceeding safe operating temperatures. During normal operation, battery heat generation can increase temperatures and accelerate degradation mechanisms that shorten the usable lifespan. If heated above a certain threshold or mechanically damaged, the battery can enter a thermal runaway reaction leading to severe fires and safety hazards. Since these two thermal issues are some of the most significant for Li-ion batteries, a considerable portion of this chapter discusses the various thermal management strategies for avoiding high temperatures and preventing the propagation of thermal runaway.
Lastly, this chapter provides a brief case study of a lithium ion battery to provide energy storage for a solar power farm, to buffer the grid when the farm goes on- or off-line. This example illustrates the many aspects involved in the cell selection, battery sizing, and thermal management.
Said Al-Hallaj, Stephen Wilke, Ben Schweitzer

Technologies and Options of Solar Energy Applications in the Middle East

The potential for solar energy in the Middle East is immense. It in general has the highest levels of solar input in terrestrial world. They also have cheap, plentiful space and the potential to generate solar power for electricity, heat, cooling and for water desalination. Continuously high solar radiation makes it ideal locations for solar installations, the potential reach of which is limited to deserts.
Direct Normal Radiation (DNR), the main measure of a region’s suitability for solar thermal concentrated applications, ranges between 2050 and 2800 kilowatts-hour per square meter per year (kWh/m2/year) in the Arab region. This is equivalent to 1–2 barrel oil per square meter per year. These rates are among the best in the world making the region suitable for solar heating and cooling, Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) and Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) applications.
Despite these favorable conditions solar energies account in average to less than 0.2% of the region’s total installed capacity for electricity, compared to currently ca. 7% (40,000 MW) in Germany and almost 33% Of German Electricity Came From Renewables in 2015. Costa Rica completes 2016 without having to burn a single fossil fuel for more than 250 days. 98.2 percent of Costa Rica's electricity came from renewable sources in 2016.
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Nasir El Bassam

Reducing Energy Cost for Wastewater Treatment in the Middle East: A Physio-chemical Prospective

Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region having less than one percent of world’s available water has 5% of world population putting additional stress on efficient water management and treatment in the region. Large amount of water used in agriculture, industry and municipality (household uses) in the region has deteriorated quality for further use, which can be treated and reused for efficient utilization of water resources. The principal challenges in wastewater treatments in MENA region derive from the different undesirable components, which vary depending on the sources due to variations in the discharged amounts of substances. Domestic/municipality wastewater has different source of pollutants in comparison to industrial or agriculture source wastewater. These impurities include metals such as Fe, Al, Zn, Pb, Cd, Hg, Cr, Ni, Cu, etc., nutrients like nitrate, phosphate, ammonia etc., inorganic materials like hydrogen sulphide, bases etc., biodegradable organic materials, organic materials like detergents, grease, coloring, solvents, fat, oil, solvents, pesticides, phenol, cyanide etc., microorganisms such as virus, worms egg and pathogenic bacteria, and suspended solids. Therefore, the challenges to treat wastewater by reducing energy cost are multi-folded and one scientific procedure is not sufficient to treat wastewater. It requires simultaneously many scientific methods to treat wastewater. In this chapter, various physical, chemical and biological processes involved in wastewater treatment, especially that can reduce energy cost, have been discussed. It briefly introduces to different scientific approaches that can be beneficial to treat wastewater coming from municipality, industries and agriculture sources in the MENA region. Study related to wastewater management and engineering is beyond the main objective in this chapter. Similarly, desalination techniques, which are not related to wastewater treatment, have been avoided. Focus has been particularly made for general readers on scientific procedural aspects without going much detailed into critical scientific development in this field.
Digambara Patra

Wind Power and Potential for its Exploitation in the Arab World

Wind power was used to propel boats along the Nile in 5000 B.C. and to pump water and for food production in the Middle East in 900 B.C. Today, only about 0.6% of the electricity demand in the Arab World is met by wind power generation. This ratio is much lower than corresponding ratios in Europe and the United States. Although one could point to specific reasons such as availability of wind, installation costs and local expertise, and availability of other energy resources, it is important to realize that generating wind power poses different challenges in different parts of the world. Like many places, issues such as data availability, grid capacity and transparent cost analysis are important for making decision regarding development of wind power. In the Arab world, the issues become more complicated when considering political uncertainty, which at a minimum impacts investment decision, and cultural values and attitudes towards power use and environmental impact.
Recognizing that it will be difficult to discuss or resolve many of the above issues, we discuss and review in this chapter technical details related to wind power generation including turbine blade aerodynamics, components and types of wind turbines and end with a discussion of potential benefits from wind power generation on the Arab world and societies and challenges to be met for reaping these benefits.
Muhammad R. Hajj



Food Security in an Insecure Future

Food security in the Middle East is directly affected by a challenging combination of ongoing destructive conflicts, a global economic downturn, widespread poverty, high population growth, corruption, intolerance, and the potentially damaging consequences of climate change. Many Arab countries demonstrate nearly all the features of those countries classified as poor, less developed, or failing to achieve the eight Millennium Goals. Even the economies of the richer oil-exporting countries in the Region have been seriously damaged by the downturn in oil and gas prices as new sources come on stream elsewhere and demand falls as a result of renewable sources of energy becoming available.
John R. Hillman, Elias Baydoun

Soils and Food Security in the Arab World

The area of the Arab region is about 14 million Km2 (1.4 * 109 ha) of which about 90% lies in the arid and semi-arid harsh environments and fragile ecosystems. During the past three decades, limited efforts were put to combat soil degradation, and desertification and soil salinization are still the major environmental problems in the Arab region. The annual rapid increase in the population, in addition to the change in life style and the increase in food consumption, led to the widening of the void between production and consumption of food in the region.
Arable land per capita is one of the lowest in the world because only less than 10% of the total area is cultivated and agricultural technology is still basic with relatively low productivity.
Investment in agricultural and water projects in the region should be encouraged to increase production and reduce dependence on imported products. Improving the conservation agriculture (CA) technique by conducting scientific research and field trials on farmers’ land, along with the dissemination of results and experiences is one way to reduce soil degradation and improve food security in this region. The promotion and spread of CA is crucial, yet challenging, for scientists and decision makers in the Arab world.
Isam Bashour

Rainfed Agriculture and Food Security in Dry Areas

The world’s ability to produce enough food to feed the growing population is further constrained by water scarcity, particularly in dry areas. Water is an increasingly scarce resource and the FAO estimates that nearly 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water- scarcity by 2025.
The problem faced by people and countries in dry areas amounts to more than resource scarcity. It is a combination of resource limitations, land and water degradation, and the low efficiency of resource use. Under conditions of resource limitations in dry areas – particularly water – future increases in productivity and production for improving food security and ensuring environmental quality, need to come from enhancing the efficiency of resource-use – rather than using more inputs or increasing the food production area.
The challenges of feeding the growing population under the conditions of climate changes, shortages of water for irrigated agriculture and degradation of arable land are increasing the demand to improve grain production from rainfed areas. The contribution of rainfed farming to food security in dryland countries can be substantially enhanced through increased adoption of currently available technologies supported by enabling policy and institutional environments. Rainfed farming can contribute more significantly to achieve new targets of food security if desired investment levels are realized. On-farm results show the huge potential for improving land and water productivity and profitability of smallholder rainfed agriculture. Yield gap in rainfed crops remain large enough to suggest considerable scope for increasing achievable yields.
Applied agricultural research-for-development suggests the following strategies for producing more food with less resources, particularly in rainfed areas of developing countries which are characterized by resource-poor small-holder farming systems: closing the yield gap of rainfed crops, enhancing adoption of improved technologies, promoting sustainable intensification and diversification of production systems, strengthening innovation systems, reducing vulnerability and managing risk, encouraging the use of water saving technologies, informing policy development, and increasing investment in agricultural research and development.
Advances in science to produce improved and higher-performing crops and livestock hold exciting prospects for making dryland food production systems more efficient, and more resistant to climatic pressures and new pests and diseases. This chapter illustrates the huge potential of technological innovation to improve food security, but also the need for supportive policies and institutions to encourage farmers to adopt these innovations.
Kamil Shideed

Ensuring Food Security by Improving “Freshwater Use Efficiency” or by Farming the Seas

The present chapter discusses water use and food production in a freshwater challenged world with a growing human population. Proposed approaches to ensure food security are multifaceted but simple. First, we need to improve water use efficiency in all food production systems. Second, we need to develop technology to farm dry or semi-arid areas of the world. Third, we should integrate various fields of agriculture and animal husbandry to improve water productivity. Fourth, we should learn to go for proven local technologies rather than glamourous setups that do not work in rural settings. Fifth, we should seriously start working on farming the oceans. Last but not least, we need to invest in education and training. The common thread in all these suggestions is the use of aquaculture to improve food production efficiency. These proposals are not novel ideas but most governments have failed to implement even the simplest of suggestions. However, now that climate change adaptation plans are at the forefront of international discussions, maybe more countries will implement suggestions for water use efficiency improvement summarized in this chapter in order to better ensure sustainable food production.
Imad Patrick Saoud

Impact of Food Losses and Waste on Food Security

In the world of rising population and concerns about inequality and growing food insecurity where about 870 million people still suffer from chronic undernourishment, food waste and loss (FLW) is one of the greatest challenges of our times.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that about one-third of the edible food produced is lost or wasted each year, i.e. about 1.3 billion tons, with an economic cost estimated at about US$750 billion (excluding fish and Seafood). In addition, the environmental impact of FLW in terms of volume and cost is tremendous and represents a huge cost to the society, in terms of greenhouse gas emission, water footprint, wastage of agricultural land and biodiversity loss.
FLW occur at all stages of the Food Supply Chain (FSC) starting with the initial level of agricultural production to the consumption by people. Some causes of FLW are structural and related to infrastructure, such as shortage of cold chains, processing facilities and efficient market infrastructure as well as shortcomings in the management and implementation of best practices at different stages of the FSC. Other causes are systematic and also related to policies and regulations that are mostly driven by improper functioning systems and non-supportive policies and regulations.
The extent of the FLW is different for different commodities and also different between developing and developed countries. The FLW in developing countries mostly occur at the post-harvest level, while in developed countries, it’s mostly at the retail and consumer level, mainly related to consumer behavior.
Among the major food commodities, cereals represent the largest share of FLW and comprise 53% of the total FLW. Meat represents only about 7%. However, when the impact on the environment and the economic cost are considered, reducing the meat loss and waste that has a large environmental impact, should receive as much attention as other major commodities despite its relatively small share of FLW.
Approaches/solutions to reduce the global FLW through the FSC are discussed, both at the post-harvest, handling, storage and processing levels (close to the farm) and at the retail and consumption level (close to the fork). Many of these problems and solutions are similar to those faced by countries in the MENA region. The regional strategic framework that was developed by FAO in 2014 for the reduction of FLW in the MENA region to achieve the region’s goal for the reduction of FLW by 50% in 2024 is highlighted and discussed. Actions on moving forward and the need to establish/develop the necessary pre-requisites that can catalyze the successful implementation to reduce the FLW in the MENA member countries are recommended.
Wajih N. Sawaya

Foodborne Disease in the Middle East

Food safety is a concern worldwide and according to the World Health Organization, developing countries are probably more at risk of foodborne illness because many of these, including those in the Middle East, have limited disease surveillance and prevention and control strategies. Specifically, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has the third highest estimated burden of foodborne diseases per population, after the African and South-East Asia regions. However, it is difficult to determine what the burden is since little is published in peer-reviewed journals or government reports for public access. This chapter reviews 16 autonomous nations, namely, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia (KSA), Syrian Arab Republic (Syria), United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Yemen. Countries range in size from Bahrain with 1.8 million inhabitants to Pakistan with a population of 184 million. Agriculture and local food production is much influenced by water availability for irrigation. Water shortages are most severe in the Gulf countries which rely on aquifers, desalination, and recycled waste water for most of their water supplies. This means that most food is imported which is expensive if not subsidized through petrodollars. This impacts food security which is a particular concern in countries under conflict, particularly, Syria, Yemen and Iraq. Gastrointestinal infections are frequent in this region from Salmonella Typhi and other Salmonella spp., Shigella spp., Campylobacter jejuni and C. coli, rotavirus, hepatitis A virus, parasites, and more rarely from Aeromonas, Yersinia enterocolitica, Brucella spp., and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Reports indicate that children are the most susceptible and that many isolates are multidrug resistant. Chemical contamination of water supplies and crops are probably more of a concern than published reports indicate, because of widespread indiscriminate use of fertilizers, antibiotics, and pesticides, coupled with increased industrial pollution affecting the water supplies. Like many other parts of the developing world, foodborne disease surveillance is limited and outbreaks are most often reported through the Press but with insufficient detail to determine the etiological agents and the factors contributing to the outbreaks, leading to speculation to the cause by those interested or responsible for food prevention and control. However, there are some well investigated outbreaks in the region that have those details, and reveal where the shortcomings of both the establishments and the inspection systems have been. Where the causative agents are known, the kinds of pathogens are generally similar to those found in the West, e.g., Salmonella, but many outbreaks seem to have short incubation periods that point to a toxin of some kind of chemical or biological origin, but these are almost never identified. Because of sectarian warfare, residents and refugees have been given food that has made them sick and solders? have been deliberately poisoned. Research has been focused on microbial contamination of locally-sold foodstuffs and manager and employee knowledge of food safety and hygienic conditions in food preparation establishments. An innovative pilot project in Qatar is to use seawater and sunlight for raising crops through the Sahara Forest Project. All countries have some kind of food establishment inspection system, but they tend to be punitive if faults are found in management or employees on the premises rather than being used for their education for improving food safety. Restaurants may be closed down and owners and employees fined for often unspecified infringements. However, some food control agents are moving towards employee training through seminars and courses before problems occur, which is a good disease prevention strategy. Unfortunately, many of the food handlers are from Asian countries with languages other than Arabic and English, which makes effective food safety communication and training difficult. Tourists visiting popular resorts in Turkey and Egypt have suffered from foodborne illnesses, usually of unknown origin but poor hygienic conditions are blamed with law suits following, and the adverse publicity affects the long-term viability of some of these resorts. Food exports, important for local economies, have occasionally been contaminated resulting in recalls and sometimes illnesses and deaths, notably fenugreek seeds from Egypt (E. coli O104:H4), pomegranate arils from Turkey (hepatitis A virus), and tahini from Lebanon (Salmonella). Overall, in recent decades, the Middle East has made strides towards improving food safety for both residents and foreign visitors or ex-pat workers. However, within the countries there are large discrepancies in the extent of effective public health oversight including food safety and food security. Currently, almost all of the countries are involved to a greater or lesser extent in the civil wars in Syria and Yemen, or are affected through political tensions and strife in Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and Turkey. In addition, the current overproduction of oil on a world-wide scale has led to a rapid decrease in revenues to most Gulf states. All this points to a severe setback, and an uncertain foreseeable future for improvements in obtaining both sufficient and safe food for residents in this region.
Ewen C. D. Todd
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