Tunisia stands as the only Arab country to have undergone democratization due to the Arab Spring protests that shook the region in the 2010s. Fueled by widespread poverty and a low standard of living, along with many other factors, the nearly month-long campaign of civil disobedience led to the ousting of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. However, installing a functioning democracy has not alleviated all of the problems that Tunisians faced pre-revolution.

The Jasmine Revolution

In December of 2010, Mohammed Bouazizi, a Sidi Bouzid fruit vendor whose goods had recently been confiscated by the local authority, self-immolated outside of the local governor’s office. His sentiments echoed amongst many frustrated with poverty in Tunisia, corruption and the suppression of freedoms. Leading up to the revolution, an increasing number of middle-class citizens expressed dissatisfaction with their living standards. Despite an approximate 7% increase in GDP per capita from 2008 to 2010, the percentage of the country’s middle class that rated themselves satisfied with their current and future prospects dropped from 24% to 14%. Due to other factors such as government corruption, which is not accurately reflected by metrics like GDP, Tunisians felt as if they had little to gain from their country’s economic growth. As a result of these factors, many Tunisians took to the streets soon after Bouazizi’s defiance act.

As riots escalated and protestors were dying under live fire from police, President Ben Ali appeared on national television and made some concessions, reducing food prices and internet usage restrictions. These remarks proved too little too late, however, and the protests continued. By January 14, state media reported the dissolution of Ben Ali’s regime and the establishment of legislative elections. As unrest continued, Ben Ali fled the country. While new leadership took the reformed government’s reins, unrest continued as many of these new politicians were once members of Ben Ali’s Democratic Constitutional Rally. Eventually, Mohammed Ghannouchi, the acting prime minister, announced several figures from other parties in the interim government. He also reemphasized the new government’s pledged efforts to maintain economic prosperity and freer speech. Eventually, the Democratic Constitutional Rally dissolved in the face of continued protests over the inclusion of politicians from the old regime. These reforms within the Tunisian government stood as one of the major catalysts for the Arab Spring protests, a series of demonstrations across the Arab world that demanded alterations to many standing regimes.

Fundamental Changes?

While the Tunisian government changed drastically in the face of civil uprising, Tunisian citizens still face some of the issues that plagued them prior. Socially, there has been continued strife between Islamism and secularism in the country, with violence spreading throughout the country in 2012 regarding the connections between religion and government. While secular parties have slightly outpaced Islamist parties, there have been problems with fundamentalist violence both domestically and abroad—Tunisians have joined terrorist organizations such as ISIS in Syria, Iraq and Lybia, making up large percentages of their foreign recruits. Additionally, terrorist groups have staged attacks on Tunisian soil, attacking institutions such as museums and resorts.

Economic troubles have also challenged Tunisians—since 2011, nearly 100,000 highly skilled workers and professionals have migrated out of the country. Despite the changes in government, unemployment is still a significant issue. Nearly 23% of university graduates were unemployed right before the onset of the revolution. That figure has since risen to 29%. Government corruption and protracted bureaucracy have done less than initially desired in helping the Tunisian middle and lower classes. Unfortunately, some Tunisians have started to doubt the new government’s effectiveness, with only 46% saying that “democracy is preferable to any other kind of government” in 2018, dropping from 71% in 2013. Moreover, there has been some support from the international community in alleviating these issues.

The International Labour Organization

A wing of the United Nations, the International Labour Organization has devoted resources towards alleviating some of the poverty in Tunisia and societal issues facing Tunisians. Some initiatives include construction projects, such as a covered market in Sidi Bouzid. These initiatives provide vendors more favorable conditions to sell their goods and provide construction workers with employment. In Regueb, a village near Sidi Bouzid, the ILO implemented the Programme to Support the Development of Underprivileged Areas, providing around 100 individuals with agricultural skills. Mahmoud Ben Romdhane, the Tunisian Minister of Social Affairs, has endorsed the collaboration of local organizations and the ILO in improving the conditions of Tunisian citizens.

Many challenges face Tunisians in the near future in alleviating the societal and economic issues that stand before the country. However, the success of Tunisians in standing for a reformed government inspired generations across the world. With support from the international community and dedication within the country, a bright future may lie ahead in alleviating poverty in Tunisia.

– Samuel Levine
Photo: Flickr

Migrant Crisis
The migrant crisis in Italy is prevalent; Italy receives more asylum seekers per year than any other European country. Since 2017, over 192,000 individuals have sought refuge in Italy by crossing the Mediterranean in informal vessels and ships organized and manned by non-governmental organizations. Many migrants who make the perilous journey from the coast of North Africa to Italy land at the small island of Lampedusa, the southernmost area of Italian territory, located just 70 miles from the coast of Tunisia.

At the peak of the crisis, hundreds of thousands of Syrians, Afghanis and Libyans crossed into Europe to seek asylum. However, Italy’s strategic location near the coasts of Tunisia and Libya led to a continuous increase in attempted landings. These two locations are common debarkation points for Middle Eastern and North African migrants. According to Reuters, from August 2019 to July 2020, over 21,000 individuals successfully reached Italy’s southern shores. These figures represent an increase of 148% from the previous year.

Additionally, E.U. regulations regarding the resettlement of asylum seekers place high financial and administrative burdens on Italy. The 1990 Dublin Regulation is a law for E.U. member states which forces migrants coming to the European Union to make their application for asylum in the first country where they arrived. This legislation disproportionately affected the Italian government in comparison with its northern European neighbors.

Migrants and the 2018 Elections

The E.U.’s perceived ambivalence towards Italy’s economic burden and the peak of the European migrant crisis in 2017 created tension. These factors created a perfect storm for the victory of right-wing political leader Matteo Salvini and his Lega party. Salvini’s message on the campaign trail, that of blocking migrant arrivals in Italy and a renegotiation of ties to the European government in Brussels, struck a tone with many dissatisfied Italian voters in the north of the country where anti-immigrant sentiments remain common.

As minister of the interior, Salvini fulfilled his electoral promise, continuing his hardline position regarding the migrant crisis in Italy. During his tenure, the Lega leader utilized Italy’s military vessels to prevent ships carrying migrants from docking in the country’s ports and cut off funding for social programs that provide vital assistance and resources for newly arrived asylum seekers.

Looking Forward

The Lega-led government collapsed in 2019. The liberal government that succeeded it altered the dynamics of the Italian government’s role in the migrant crisis. Salvini heavily criticized the E.U. government for its laissez-faire approach to Italy’s economic and organizational woes during the migrant crisis. In contrast, the current Italian government is much more open to collaboration with Brussels. An agreement reached at the end of 2019 between Italy, Germany and France allowed for the relocation of migrants rescued at sea throughout the E.U., thus moving away from the controversial Dublin Regulation.

Even under the new liberal government in Rome, deportations of recently arrived migrants have continued into the present. However, the current national policy regarding asylum seekers differs from the issue’s handling under Salvini; instead of directly blocking migrant vessels and NGOs from docking in Italian ports, the government is directly lobbying with Tunisia to incentivize the North African country to control illegal migration from its borders by threatening cuts to development aid.

The economic and social catastrophe of the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the new Tunisian policy and continued deportations. The country faced an administrative breakdown during the spring and found a need to centralize government resources towards the virus. These factors led to the closure of numerous refugee facilities in southern Italy. Furthermore, the new liberal government had, for the first time, deployed military ships to stop migrants from Tunisia in order to maintain Italy’s national quarantine.

Although the country has policies in place to ensure all incoming asylum seekers are quarantined before entry, the fear of new cases being brought into the country as well as additional stress on an already damaged economy may lead to increased support for Salvini’s policies in the future.

International Rescue Committee (IRC)

One important organization lobbying for the rights of migrants seeking refuge in Italy and the E.U. is the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The IRC primarily assists in the safe movement of asylum seekers. It organizes funding for secure ships and professional sailors to transport migrants across the Mediterranean. Furthermore, the IRC was instrumental in the development of Refugee.Info. This online site serves as an informational tool on how to apply for asylum. It also details statistics regarding the issue of migrants in Italy. Lastly, the IRC provides mental and physical health services for newly arrived migrants in the collection facilities in southern Italy. Though COVID-19 has posed many challenges to the migrant crisis in Italy, there are organizations making a difference.

Jason Beck
Photo: Wikimedia

Six Facts about Healthcare in Tunisia
Tunisia, situated in the North-central region of Africa, borders two relatively unstable nations, Algeria and Libya. However, Tunisia has had consistent development in human wellbeing for the past couple of decades, ranking among the highest in the African continent. In part, this status can be attributed to the relatively strong healthcare system in place. According to a World Health Organization report, Tunisia possesses a national health strategic plan as well as a relatively high life expectancy at 75 years. Here are six facts about healthcare in Tunisia. 

6 Facts About Healthcare in Tunisia

  1. Health Insurance: More than 90% of the population has some form of health insurance. Private insurance systems cover many Tunisians, while others rely on programs for vulnerable demographics. One persistent concern is the gaps in payment for medical procedures, which can create a financial burden for families. 
  2. Universal Healthcare: Though the new constitution in 2014 labeled healthcare a “human right,” much work still remains to be done in order to make healthcare in Tunisia universally accepted and effective. Specifically, the government is working to improve healthcare infrastructure in southern Tunisia. In 2016, it increased the healthcare budget by 9% to help accomplish this goal. 
  3. Private Sector: The private healthcare sector in Tunisia is booming. In recent years, the number of new private clinics built in the country has surged. By 2025, 75 new facilities are expected to be completed, an increase which would double the capacity of hospital beds in the country. These improvements should help make access to quality healthcare more readily accessible to the general population. 
  4. Deadly Diseases: Tunisia has been able to eradicate and control many deadly diseases that put a strain on the healthcare system. Malaria, polio, schistosomiasis are well under control. The country has also addressed and effectively managed HIV/AIDS. 
  5. COVID-19 Pandemic: Thus far, Tunisia has managed COVID-19 relatively well. Sitting at 1,780 confirmed cases and 52 deaths (as of August 12), the country is well-positioned to recover economically from the virus. Though it is still early, it appears that the healthcare system in Tunisia was able to absorb the influx of cases in order to slow the death rate.
  6. Preventative Measures: Tunisia’s success in battling COVID-19 is largely due to preventative measures taken by the government and healthcare sector. Seeing the potential for a rise in cases, the nation shut down swiftly. Tunisia went into a rigorous lockdown that lasted for months. This was an especially difficult decision, considering that tourism accounts for 10% of the country’s GDP. In spite of this, however, the World Health Organization cited a strong sense of community and respect for the lockdown measures across the nation.

These six facts about healthcare in Tunisia highlight some of the country’s most significant successes. The nation’s strong healthcare system has led to the control of many deadly diseases. Moving forward, it is essential that the Tunisian government continues to prioritize improving and expanding its healthcare infrastructure.

Zak Schneider
Photo: Flickr

tunisian povertyTunisia stands as the only Arabian country to have undergone democratization as a result of the Arab Spring protests that shook the region in the 2010s. Fueled by widespread Tunisian poverty and a low standard of living, alongside many other factors, the nearly month-long campaign of civil disobedience led to the ousting of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. However, the installation of a functioning democracy has yet to alleviate all of the issues that Tunisians faced pre-revolution.

The Jasmine Revolution

In December of 2010, Mohammed Bouazizi, a Sidi Bouzid fruit vendor whose goods had recently been confiscated by local authorities, self-immolated outside of the local governor’s office. His sentiments were echoed amongst many citizens frustrated with Tunisian poverty, corruption and suppression of freedoms. Leading up to the revolution, an increasing number of middle-class citizens expressed dissatisfaction with their standards of living. Despite an approximate 7% increase in GDP per capita from 2008 to 2010, the percentage of the country’s middle class that rated themselves satisfied with their current and future prospects dropped from 24% to 14%. Due to other factors such as government corruption, something that is not accurately reflected by metrics like GDP, Tunisians felt as if they had little to gain from their country’s economic growth. As a result of these factors, many Tunisians took to the streets soon after Bouazizi’s act of defiance.

As riots escalated, with protestors dying under live fire from police, President Ben Ali appeared on national television and made some concessions, including a reduction in food prices and in restrictions on internet usage. However, these remarks proved too little, and the protests continued. By Jan. 14 2011, state media reported the dissolution of the Ben Ali regime and the establishment of legislative elections. As unrest continued, Ben Ali fled the country. While new leadership took charge of the newly reformed government, protests continued, as much of this new leadership consisted of members of Ben Ali’s Democratic Constitutional Rally. Eventually, Mohammed Ghannouchi, the acting prime minister, announced the posting of several figures from other parties in the interim government. He also reemphasized the new government’s pledged efforts to maintain economic prosperity and freer speech. Eventually, the Democratic Constitutional Rally was dissolved in the face of continued protests over the inclusion of politicians from the old regime. These reforms within the Tunisian government stand as one of the major catalysts for the Arab Spring protests, a series of demonstrations across the Arab world that demanded alterations to many standing regimes.

Fundamental Changes in Tunisian Poverty?

While the Tunisian government changed drastically in the face of this civil uprising, Tunisian citizens still face some of the issues that plagued them before. Socially, there has been continued strife between Islamism and secularism in the country, with violence spreading throughout the country in 2012 over the interaction of religion and government. While secular parties have slightly outpaced Islamist parties, there have been problems with fundamentalist violence both domestically and abroad. Tunisians have joined terrorist organizations such as ISIS in Syria, Iraq and Lybia, making up large percentages of their foreign recruits. Additionally, terrorist groups have staged attacks on Tunisian soil, attacking institutions such as museums and resorts.

Economic troubles have also challenged Tunisians. Since 2011, nearly 100,000 highly skilled workers and professionals have left the country. Despite the changes in government, unemployment still stands as a grave issue. Nearly 23% of university graduates were unemployed right before the onset of the revolution. This number has since risen to 29%. Government corruption and protracted bureaucracy have done less than initially desired in helping the Tunisian middle and lower classes. Unfortunately, some Tunisians have started to doubt the effectiveness of the new government, with only 46% saying that “democracy is preferable to any other kind of government” in 2018, dropping from 71% in 2013. However, there has been some support from the international community in alleviating these economic issues.

The International Labour Organization

A wing of the United Nations, the International Labour Organization, has devoted resources toward alleviating Tunisian poverty and some other societal issues currently facing Tunisians. Some initiatives include construction projects, such as a covered market in Sidi Bouzid. This provides vendors with more favorable conditions to sell their goods while providing construction workers with employment. In Regueb, a village near Sidi Bouzid, the organization has implemented the Programme to Support the Development of Underprivileged Areas, providing around 100 individuals with agricultural skills. Mahmoud Ben Romdhane, the Tunisian Minister of Social Affairs, has endorsed the collaboration of local organizations and the International Labour Organization in improving the conditions of Tunisian citizens.

Tunisians face many challenges in the near future in alleviating the societal and economic issues that stand before the country. However, the success of Tunisians in standing for a reformed government has inspired generations across the world. With support from the international community and dedication within the country, a bright future may lie ahead in regard to Tunisian poverty and political stability.

Samuel Levine
Photo: Flickr

Tunisian OasesTunisia is home to over 200 oases located across the country’s southern governorates. These oases account for more than 40,000 hectares of agriculturally productive land and house 10% of the country’s population. In Southern Tunisia, oases provide food security and employment for local populations. In addition, they serve as trade centers that connect remote regions. However, several challenges threaten the biodiversity of Tunisian oases and the livelihood of residents. Rapid urbanization and monoculture farming have placed tremendous pressure on water resources and resulted in land degradation. As agricultural productivity decreases, young people migrate to the cities in search of better employment opportunities. The lack of proper management has also led many areas to fall into a state of neglect.

The Oases Ecosystems and Livelihoods Project

In 2014, the World Bank implemented the Oases Ecosystems and Livelihoods Project, better known by its French acronym GDEO. It is aimed at improving sustainable natural resources management and conserving the biodiversity of selected oases in southern Tunisia. Co-funded by the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility, the project’s total cost was estimated at 170.50 million USD. The initiative achieved stellar success. Various microprojects restored crucial irrigation systems, renewed water cycles and provided jobs for local residents. The number of beneficiaries totaled at 23,257, exceeding the initial target of 18,000.

Environmental Impact

Tunisian oases form a unique ecosystem ideal for the flourishing of diverse flora and fauna. This impressive biodiversity was endangered by monoculture practices on date farms. The practices used up natural water supplies and caused the loss of unique plant species and varieties. To remedy these harms, the GDEO implemented a total of 60 micro-projects that helped renovate irrigation infrastructure and protect the area against wild boars. They also helped to enforce pest management and diversify crop cultivation by introducing palm and fruit trees. Crop diversification significantly reduced land degradation, which contributed to sustaining the region’s ecosystems.

Furthermore, another key component of the plan is improving the management of oasis natural resources to protect against flooding and sand invasion. An additional component is scaling up sustainable land and water management (SLWM) practices to enhance agricultural productivity. As a result, SLWM practices transformed 900 hectares of land, exceeding the original target of 700 hectares.

Support for Farmers

The provision of training and tools to farmers has increased crop yields and sustained farmers’ livelihoods. They include introducing mechanical plows and organic fertilizers. In addition, farmers receive training on how to farm more efficiently through the implementation of “3-state agriculture.” This is a method of production that pays off with higher crop diversity and higher production within a limited space. More than 200 people participated in training programs, and 5056 farmers ended up adopting SLWM practices. Equipped with the right skills and tools, more and more young farmers now choose to stay and work in the oases. With knowledge of new farming techniques, farmers can profit more from their work while also being mindful of the ecosystem and natural resources.

Economic Empowerment

Most importantly, oasis renewal and rehabilitation enables local residents to earn a living through beneficial and profitable engagement with the local region. This offers an alternative to migration to urban centers. Community-based projects support a variety of farming and non-farming activities. These activities include craftsmanship, ovine fattening activities and beekeeping as well as cultural heritage conservation and ecotourism. “Jobs have been created–about half of them for women and youth,” said Taoufiq Bennouna, World Bank Senior Natural Resources Management Specialist. In total, more than 226 micro-projects focused on SLWM, conservation, artisanship and ecotourism development have resulted in 735 direct jobs and improved income.

 

Overall, the World Bank’s Tunisian Oases Ecosystems and Livelihoods Project has brought new life to Tunisian oases by preserving their diverse ecosystems and helping farmers maintain their livelihoods.

– Alice Nguyen
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in TunisiaThe North African country of Tunisia is sandwiched by two relatively unstable nations, Algeria and Libya. However, Tunisia has had consistent development in human wellbeing for the past couple of decades, ranking among the best nations in Africa. In part, this success can be attributed to Tunisia’s relatively strong healthcare system. According to a World Health Organization report, Tunisia possesses a “national health strategic plan” as well as a relatively high life expectancy at 75 years. Healthcare in Tunisia is a promising sign that the country can adequately support its population and promote longer, healthier lives for its citizens. Here are six facts about healthcare in Tunisia.

6 Facts About Healthcare in Tunisia

  1. More than 90% of the population is covered by health insurance. While some citizens use private insurance, others are covered by programs in place to assist the most disadvantaged in society. However, Tunisia still lacks truly universal coverage. One of the top complaints about healthcare in Tunisia is gaps in payment for important medical procedures, which can burden families.
  2. Tunisia’s 2014 constitution granted healthcare as a human right. The government is still working to make this a reality and provide universal, effective healthcare in Tunisia. Specifically, the government is trying to improve the dilapidated health infrastructure in the south of the country. This manifested in a 9% increase in the healthcare budget in 2016, which went toward improving infrastructure in remote areas.
  3. Private healthcare in Tunisia is booming. In recent years, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of private clinics built in the country was expected to surge. Seventy-five new facilities are set to be completed by 2025, doubling the number of hospital beds in the country. These improvements should help make access to quality healthcare more readily accessible to the general population.
  4. Tunisia successfully combated many diseases in the past. Most importantly, Tunisia has been able to eradicate and control many deadly diseases that put a strain on its healthcare system. Malaria, polio and schistosomiasis are well under control. In addition, Tunisia’s healthcare system has worked to address HIV/AIDS.
  5. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Tunisia has done relatively well. Sitting at 1,327 confirmed cases and 50 deaths as of July 2020, the country is positioned to recover economically from the virus, which is devastating in other parts of the world. Though it is still early in the pandemic, it appears that the healthcare system in Tunisia was able to absorb the influx of cases in order to slow the death rate.
  6. Robust preventative measures enabled Tunisia’s positive response to COVID-19. Seeing the potential for a rise in cases early on, the government, as advised by healthcare experts, quickly went into a rigorous lockdown that lasted for months. This was especially difficult considering that tourism accounts for 10% of the country’s GDP. According to a WHO spokesman, a strong sense of community and respect for the lockdown measures eased the country’s caseload and death toll. Because the Tunisian population was willing to make sacrifices for the broader community, they are now in a comparatively better place than some other nations around the world.

Healthcare is a critical issue for any nation. While there is always room for improvement, Tunisia has succeeded in using its available resources to ensure medical coverage for its people.

Zak Schneider
Photo: Pixabay

Education in Tunisia

Tunisia is a small country in Northern Africa with a population of 11.5 million people. Both Arabic and French play a large role in Tunisian culture and both are considered primary languages of instruction in schools. Education in Tunisia is an important part of society and is compulsory until the age of 16. The following seven facts about education in Tunisia further illuminate the country’s challenges and initiatives to improve the current system and community.

Seven Facts about Education in Tunisia

  1. While Tunisia’s education is influenced by the French system, an emphasis on Arabic language and culture is prioritized within schools. After gaining independence from France in 1956, Tunisian education has seen significant Arabization since the 1970s. In recent years, however, there has been yet another cultural shift marked by the demand for English speakers within the workplace. As a result, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research partnered with the British council in 2016 to offer English speaking certificates within their Tunisian universities in order to increase employability for Tunisians at home and abroad.
  2. Schools in Tunisia are overseen by the Tunisian Ministry of Education and Training. There are three main levels of schooling: basic, secondary and higher education. In 1991, the Tunisian government passed the New Education Act which lengthened the duration of the basic and secondary levels to 13 years.
  3. The Tunisian government has also significantly invested in a pre-primary level of education intended for children from ages 3-5. These exist in two forms: traditional kindergartens and kouttabs, which are supervised by the Ministry of Women, Family and Childhood and the Ministry of Religious Affairs, respectively. In traditional kindergartens, children follow a standard curriculum. In contrast, kouttabs, the educational focus is on religion. From 1987 to 2007, the number of kouttabs has nearly tripled from 278 to 961. Though there is no data comparing the enrollment between kindergartens and kouttabs, this increase in the number of kouttabs does reveal higher levels of enrollment today.
  4. According to UNESCO, Tunisia spends about 6.2 percent of its GDP on education. Many modern technologies used in Tunisian classrooms today are funded by major organizations such as the World Bank, Microsoft and Apple. This has seen an especially significant impact at the University of Tunis: 20 percent of its courses have been offered online in the last 15 years. This has also increased the number of students able to complete their education by allowing them to work part-time while earning their degrees, an impactful solution in addressing Tunisan educational reforms.
  5. The government’s recent initiatives to improve the education system after independence can be seen in the discrepancies between the older and younger Tunisian generations. According to UNESCO, the literacy rate between 15-24-year-olds was 96.1 percent in comparison to 39.77 percent of those 65 and older as of 2014. To address this issue, the National Adult Education Programme was created in 2000. In the first three years of its existence, the program grew from 107,000 participants to 165,000.
  6. In 2016, the Tunisian government released the Strategic Plan for the Education Sector, detailing intended reforms spanning the next four years. The plan identifies its primary goal: reducing dropout rates to be addressed by “improving teacher training, upgrade curricula and infrastructure, as well as… enhance [the] framework for private sector partnerships.”
  7. According to UNESCO, the education rate between young men and women in Tunisia is almost equal: In 2007, 96.7 percent of girls and 95.5 percent of boys were recorded to be in school. That being said, however, traditional Tunisian cultural norms have heavily influenced the employability of educated women who have a harder time finding work than their lesser-educated counterparts. The World Bank reports that “the unemployment rate has remained around 15.5 percent and is particularly high among women (22.8 percent), graduates (29.4 percent) and in poor regions.”

The World Bank estimates that Tunisia’s economy is projected to grow 4 percent in the next year, which it states is “contingent on the completion of pressing reforms to improve the investment climate and ensure social stability.” These seven facts about education in Tunisia highlight these issues, and ensuring that they are addressed, Tunisia is sure to flourish for years to come.

– Jordan Powell
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Tunisia
Tunisia, a small North African country, is often seen as a success story of the Arab uprisings after making strides towards consolidating its democracy. However, the economic woes that triggered the 2011 revolts have yet to be addressed and some citizens are unable to access sufficient nutrients as a result. These top 10 facts about hunger in Tunisia outline the issues that the country faces today in regards to food insecurity.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Tunisia

  1. There are a handful of factors that negatively impact Tunisia’s most vulnerable citizens’ access to a nutritional, balanced diet. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), those include a stagnant economy, high unemployment rates, regional disparities and dependence on cereal imports. Approximately 28 percent of the country’s rural-dwelling citizens are poor, coming out to around one million people.
  2. Due to the arid, dry nature of Tunisia’s location, water scarcity is a major roadblock when it comes to the country’s agricultural production. The International Development Research Centre reports that the country must import most of its basic foods and all of its livestock feed and focus its own agricultural efforts on high-value crops for export. Financial, technical and climate conditions are all major factors that impede an increase in domestic food production. Because of these conditions, Tunisia is heavily dependent on foreign trade for food.
  3. Food waste is a serious problem. Bread is the most wasted product with around 16 percent going uneaten. The Tunisian National Institute for Consumption states that food waste represents around 5 percent of food expenditures per year, coming out to the equivalent of about $197 million. The average family loses $7 on food waste per month.
  4. Tunisians most vulnerable to facing hunger are those living in rural areas, in the Central West and North West regions, as well as women and children. Poverty rates exceed 32 percent in the country’s Central West and North West regions. In addition, low-income rural households headed by women are especially at risk of hunger. Although physical access to food is virtually guaranteed nation-wide, economic barriers, such as price inflation and unemployment, pose a serious threat in achieving it.
  5. Hunger in Tunisia has led to some of its citizens facing a plethora of nutritional ailments. The most prominent of those include deficiencies in vitamins, minerals and obesity. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports that anemia, or iron deficiency, was estimated at 31.2 percent for women of reproductive age (15-49) in 2016. Rates of this disorder in this demographic have been steadily increasing since 2010. According to the FAO, approximately 27.3 percent of the country’s adult population (over 18) was considered obese in 2016. This number is over 10 percent higher than in 2000.
  6. With a score of 7.9 out of 50, Tunisia has a low level of hunger according to the 2018 Global Hunger Index (GHI), and this number continues to trend downwards. In other words, fewer and fewer Tunisians go hungry each year. This an improvement from moderate levels of hunger recorded in 2000 when Tunisia had a score of 10.7. In 2018, the country was ranked 28th out of 119 qualifying countries. The GHI score is calculated based on four indicators: undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality. As the score has improved over the last two decades, this indicates that these factors have been decreasing in frequency and that hunger in Tunisia is improving.
  7. Prevalence of stunting in children under the age of 5 has decreased by 5.7 percent since the year 2000 according. Currently, 10.9 percent of children of this category is considered to have stunted growth, meaning that their growth is below normal due to prolonged malnutrition. While the percentage of children affected has fallen since 2000, it is slowly on the incline, rising from 9 percent in 2005 to 10.9 percent last year.
  8. The mortality rate for children under the age of 5 is decreasing. Death is the most serious consequence of hunger, and children are the most vulnerable group. However, the percentage of children losing their lives before their fifth birthdays has more than halved since 2000, dropping from 3.4 percent to just 1.4 percent in 2018.
  9. Government-run National School Meals Programs to combat hunger in Tunisia reach approximately 260,000 children per month. Tunisia’s investment in school meals that reaches 125,000 girls and 135,000 boys in around 2,500 schools is fully funded by the government and totaled the equivalent of $13.2 million in the 2014/15 school year. The Tunisian government has also allocated the equivalent of $1.7 million for the construction and equipment of a pilot central kitchen and a first School Food Bank hub.
  10. Over the past two decades, Tunisian agriculture has made significant progress. The most notable improvements are achieving self-sufficiency in products such as milk, meat, fruit and vegetables, limiting import dependence and strengthening the country’s presence in foreign markets as a result of the good quality-price ratio of its products.

Overall, as demonstrated by these top 10 facts about hunger in Tunisia, the situation in the country is improving. Fewer people are, according to the data, going without food every year, and this trend shows no sign of stopping. The efforts today appear to be more concentrated on the nutritional density of food available than its access. While no situation is perfect, Tunisia has made and is still making strides towards minimizing food insecurity within its borders.

– Chelsey Crowne
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Tunisia
While there is still more work to be done in decreasing employment rates and making housing more affordable, the North African country of Tunisia has made significant strides in improving the living conditions for its citizens. Substantial developments have been made in moving towards universal health care and bolstering Tunisia’s education system. In the article below, the top 10 facts about living conditions in Tunisia are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Tunisia

  1. More work still needs to be done in increasing employment rates for youth and women in the country. Youth employment is one of the main issues that Tunisia faces. One solution is to enhance the capacity for job creation in the formal private sector. The unemployment rate of youth aged from 15 to 30 is higher than 30 percent. The unemployment rate for women is even more than this percentage in some areas. The percentage of the labor force with a college degree increased from 10 percent to 16 percent from 2000 to 2010, and this percentage keeps increasing. One issue facing those who are educated is that their quality of education does not meet the skills required for certain jobs.
  2. Some more progress can be made in Tunisia in decreasing the unemployment rate. In Tunisia, the unemployment rate increased from 15.40 percent in the second quarter of 2018 to 15.50 percent in the third quarter of 2018. The overall unemployment rate in Tunisia was 15.36 percent on average from 2005 to 2018. The largest percentage of the unemployment rate was 18.90 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 and the lowest was 12.80 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007.
  3. Some progress has been made in increasing country’s GDP that has helped to ameliorate living conditions in Tunisia. From  2000 to 2014, Tunisia’s GDP increased from $21.47 billion to $47.59 billion. However, in the last few years, GDP decreased, and was at $40.25 billion in 2017.
  4. Significant strides have been made in decreasing poverty and extreme poverty. From 1995 to 2010, Tunisia has drastically reduced poverty from one million to 0.2 million people. From 2000 to 2015, poverty has decreased from 25 percent to 15 percent, respectively. In addition, extreme poverty has decreased to 3 percent in 2015 from 7.5 percent in 2000.
  5. Economic policies were implemented to decrease poverty in the country and they are the main reason why there was a decrease in poverty during periods where there was no economic growth.
  6. More work still needs to be done in making housing more affordable. Some issues households in Tunisia face is inflation and the small number of microfinance for housing, hindering the access to finance. The primary ways the government helps households finance affordable housing is through financial subsidies.
  7. The Ministry of Health governs the public health care system in Tunisia, bolstered by numerous public institutions. There are three levels of care in Tunisia: primary, made up of 81 clinics and 2,091 basic health centers, secondary, made up of 109 district hospitals, and tertiary, made up of 33 regional hospitals and 24 modern specialized centers and teaching hospitals. The public sector is the main health care provider in Tunisia, providing for 87 percent of hospital bed capacity, totaling to 31,936 beds.
  8. There have been substantial developments in Tunisia in moving towards universal health care coverage, which is in part demonstrated by the work of the National Health Insurance Fund. The annual health care spending in 2013 totaled to 7.1 percent of the country’s GDP. Thirty-seven percent of the cost was spent by Tunisian households, 35 percent was spent by the National Health Insurance Fund and 28 percent was spent by the government.
  9. The Tunisian government places a strong emphasis on education. There are three levels of education in Tunisia that are basic education, secondary education and higher education. The government sees the value in education for growing its human resources and has made primary education mandatory and at free of costs.
  10. Due to the decreasing quality of education and high unemployment rates of young graduates, the government is striving to overhaul its education system. After the 2011 revolution that marked the beginning of the Arab Spring, the Government of Tunisia has been endeavoring to make reforms in a Strategic Plan for the Education Sector 2016-2020. The objectives of the five-year plan are strengthening quality standards through teacher training, bolstering curriculum and infrastructure and improving the framework for private sector partnerships.

There has been significant progress in ameliorating the living conditions in Tunisia. While still more strides can and must be made in decreasing employment rates and making housing more affordable, the country has increased its GDP substantially, decreased poverty and extreme poverty as well. With more effort, a bright future is on the horizon for further improving living conditions in Tunisia.

– Daniel McAndrew-Greiner

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