Hunger in Tunisia Tunisia is a North African nation located on the Mediterranean Sea. The country suffers from high unemployment, and approximately 21% of its population lives below the poverty line. In light of these issues, hunger in Tunisia is becoming a pressing concern.

Causes of Hunger in Tunisia

One of the major factors contributing to hunger in Tunisia is the nation’s reliance on agricultural imports, especially cereals, to sustain its population. Long-term economic challenges have prevented the nation from being able to purchase sufficient food staples to feed all of its citizens. The country’s high inflation rate, which reached 9.1% in 2022, has exacerbated food shortages and led to soaring prices that are limiting the most vulnerable citizens’ access to available food products.

While Tunisia does have the capacity to produce food within its borders, the country is in the midst of a three-year long drought that has been detrimental to its agriculture. Since September 2022, rainfall levels have dropped to one-fifth of the normal rate. The lack of rainfall has diminished harvests, hindered the production of essential crops like grain and destabilized the country’s dairy industry. Reduced harvests have increased the cost of cattle feed, forcing many farmers to sell the livestock upon which the country relies for milk and other dairy staples. In addition to causing dairy shortages, the drought has devastated Tunisian olive crops. With olive oil being one of Tunisia’s primary exports since antiquity, this has added to the country’s economic instability and heightened the hunger crisis.

Impact of the Hunger Crisis

As a result of the hunger crisis, malnutrition has become an increasing issue in Tunisia. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), an estimated 30% of Tunisian children under 5 years old and 32% of pregnant and breastfeeding women are anemic or iron deficient. Additionally, labor migration has become increasingly common due to the ongoing food crisis, putting thousands of Tunisians who suffer from hunger in danger as they seek relocation to Europe. The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights reported that, between January and October of 2022 alone, over 500 Tunisians died or went missing as they tried to cross the Mediterranean in search of better opportunities.

Efforts Toward Change

The WFP, a United Nations humanitarian organization that fights hunger around the globe, is working to address Tunisia’s ongoing food and malnutrition crisis. The WFP’s 2022-2025 Country Strategic Plan for Tunisia outlines its initiatives to improve Tunisia’s National School Feeding Programme, promote proper nutrition for school-aged children and establish school gardens and canteens to ensure access to healthy food sources. Additionally, the WFP is working with local farmers and schools to increase the availability of locally-produced food and decrease Tunisia’s reliance on imports. Finally, the organization is implementing strategies to advance Tunisian women’s socioeconomic empowerment by increasing their involvement in local agriculture, particularly in the newly-established school gardens.

Looking Forward

Despite the impact of ongoing food shortages and high food prices, the WFP is working with the Tunisian government and local communities to combat hunger in Tunisia. Continued efforts to improve the country’s school feeding program, promote the local farming industry and strengthen social safety nets could help alleviate hunger in Tunisia and provide Tunisians with access to nutritious food.

Madison Tomaso
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in TunisiaAccording to the Global Hunger Index of 2022, Tunisia ranks 26th out of 121 countries in terms of hunger levels. A 6.1 score indicates that rates of hunger in Tunisia are low. However, according to the World Food Program (WFP), “a stagnant economy, high unemployment rates, regional disparities and dependence on cereal imports challenge the ability of the most vulnerable to ensure an appropriate, nutritious diet.” Tunisia is facing “overlapping nutrition problems,” such as obesity and vitamin and mineral insufficiencies. The WFP estimates that about 28% of pregnant or breastfeeding females and children younger than 5 suffer from anemia. As a result, more attention is needed to address malnutrition in Tunisia.

A Dependency on Imports

A 2019 article by Aymen Amayed says “Tunisia is not self-sufficient in terms of food production: more than 50[%]of the food the country consumes is imported.” Although the importing of food products allows Tunisia to meet the country’s food needs, and even though the government provides subsidies for specific basic food products, affordability is still an issue. Amayed explains that “because many agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizers are imported, locally produced food is also subject to price pressure and fluctuation related to currency exchange rates and other uncertainties of international trade.” Also, the planting of imported seeds and trees depletes local varieties of crops.

Extreme weather patterns also exacerbate the situation. Tunisia’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) document created in 2015 predicts that droughts will decrease the land area used for cereal crops by 200,000 hectares and will reduce the land area for arboriculture by 800,000 hectares by 2030. There will be a 30% decrease in “available land area for rain-fed cereal production,” resulting in the country’s GDP shrinking by 5-10% by 2030.

Impacts of the Russia-Ukraine War on Malnutrition in Tunisia

Due to the war in Ukraine, food dependence in Tunisia has become a major issue. The impacts of the war in Ukraine on the global food system have long-term consequences. Tunisia’s current food insecurity issues originate from “agricultural, economic and social policies introduced by successive governments since independence and which are directly related to global food systems,” Arab Reform Initiative says. For example, instead of strengthening the production of local cereal crops, Tunisia’s government increased cereal imports.

Despite the problems related to malnutrition in Tunisia, the WFP is working to help the government address these issues through the Tunisia Country Strategic Plan (2022–2025). The WFP will help to strengthen and expand state-run school feeding programs with the goal of reaching 260,000 vulnerable Tunisian children.

The government acknowledged the importance of school feeding programs in improving education, nutritional and developmental outcomes; therefore, in 2019, it expanded the budget for the school feeding program to $16 million annually.  Furthermore, the “WFP is providing technical assistance in establishing a national food security monitoring system that can inform efforts to make the national social protection system and safety nets more inclusive and shock-responsive.” The Strategic Plan aims to accomplish two main outcomes:

  1. Expand economic opportunities for at risk-groups in vulnerable areas to increase their shock resiliency by 2025.
  2. Improve the capacity of specific “national institutions in Tunisia” to establish “school meal and inclusive shock-responsive social protection” initiatives to reduce food insecurity.

Through continued reform commitments from the Tunisia government, hunger in Tunisia can reduce.

– Olga Petrovska
Photo: Flickr

Tunisia’s Food CrisisTunisia, a North African country with a population of 11.8 million, is facing a dire food crisis in the wake of the Ukraine War. Recently, the country has struggled with various political and economic strife, including 14 government changes in the past decade and a slow economic revival. Reliance on foreign grain exports further exacerbates Tunisia’s food crisis. This makes it particularly susceptible to the dangerous effects of foreign conflicts. In addition, the government has issued decrees that imperil citizens’ freedom of expression.

Import Reliance and War

According to a report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), moderate to severe food insecurity affected around 25.1% of Tunisians from 2018 to 2020. Government food subsidies protected many Tunisians from the expensive cost of foreign imports and agriculture in the country for products such as vegetables and fruits is self-sustainable.

However, following the COVID-19 pandemic, the government was unable to continue providing sufficient subsidies as the prices of their imports skyrocketed, which led to Tunisia accepting an emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for $750 million.

In addition to the insecurity introduced by COVID-19, the war in Ukraine presents a significant threat to Tunisian’s food supply. Since the Tunisian diet relies heavily on grains and Tunisia imports around 50% of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia, the Ukraine war has disrupted regular imports and accelerated hunger within the country.

Inside Tunisia

Statistics tell researchers about the numerical values of a food shortage. However, they cannot properly show the real living conditions of the crisis. Inside the personal lives of Tunisians during recent times of food shortage, bakers are running out of ingredients for bread and the lines of customers in the bakeries continue growing. Food insecurity in Tunisia has even affected citizens’ religious practices; during Ramadan, feasting happens nightly during iftars, but with supply limitations, it was often a struggle to fulfill them.

On March 20, Tunisian President Kais Saied enacted Decree-Law 2022-14, which sentenced those who hoarded state-subsidized products, such as cartels hoarding flour, to 10 to 30 years in prison. This decree’s goal is to protect against ongoing price gouging of grain products. In addition to the president’s decree, the government has also focused on police raids of warehouses and placing the blame for empty grocery store shelves on small businesses.

Amnesty International, a non-governmental organization that fights for human rights, suggested that President Kais’ anti-speculation decree could endanger citizens’ freedom of expression because it claims to target the spread of misinformation. Instead of simply protecting citizens from misinformation, the decree prevents citizens from speaking out about food shortages for fear of prosecution.

World Bank Loan

On June 28th, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved a $130 million loan to help alleviate the devastating effects of Tunisia’s food crisis in the wake of the Ukraine war. Emergency support will be provided, such as imports of wheat and barley for dairy production.

In the long run, the loan could assist Tunisia to become more self-sufficient and less reliant on foreign grain imports. This decision also pushes for the reevaluation of weaknesses in the grain value chain, which greatly contributes to food insecurity globally.

– Caroline Zientek
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19’s Impact on Tunisia
In March 2020, Tunisia, a country located in the Maghreb region of Northern Africa, went into lockdown like the rest of the world because of the spread of the Coronavirus. The lockdown impacted Tunisia’s economy, jobs, households and agriculture. The government has implemented policies to mitigate COVID-19’s impact on the economy and society in Tunisia, but it did not soften the negative effects. 


COVID-19’s impact on Tunisia’s economy has negatively affected its important sources of income. This negative impact on the economy also affected the livelihood of Tunisians, who lost their jobs and fell into poverty. Although the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the whole of Tunisia’s economy, the following examines only the critical aspects of Tunisia’s economy that experienced a decline during the pandemic.

  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP): During the pandemic, Tunisia’s GDP declined by 8.6%. Tunisia’s budget deficit contributed to 10.2% of the GDP decline. Furthermore, the public debt that Tunisia owes made up 87.6% of the decline in GDP. COVID-19’s impact on Tunisia’s GDP led to a 21% increase in the poverty rate, especially within rural areas in the northwest and southwest of the country.
  • Tourism: By the time Tunisia completely locked down in April 2020, the tourism sector experienced a steep decline of 80%. This resulted in the prediction of the closing of 60% of hotels in the summer of 2020, which is vital to the tourism sector. As a result of the decline in the tourism sector, it lost an estimated 400,000 jobs.
  • Retail: COVID-19’s impact on Tunisia resulted in the closure of businesses because of the lockdowns. As a result, the retail sector experienced an approximately 62% loss in revenue, according to the IFPRI report. As for jobs, the retail sector has experienced a -2.4% decrease in employment.
  • Agriculture: Agriculture is vital to Tunisia’s economy and international trade. The agricultural sector has experienced a 16.2% decline in revenue, IFPRI reported. Specifically, Tunisia’s export of fresh produce to European countries has fallen by 80%. As a result of COVID-19’s impact on Tunisia’s agricultural sector, agriculture jobs declined by 145,000.

Impact of Unemployment on Poverty

Similar to what happened in many countries during the pandemic, COVID-19 has caused many Tunisian businesses to lay off their workers. This increased the overall unemployment rate to 15% during the first quarter of 2020, and then up to 17.8% during the first quarter of 2021, according to Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Rural regions, specifically the northwestern and southern parts of Tunisia experienced the highest increase in poverty and unemployment compared to the urban areas.

The northwest region has a 26% of unemployment and the southern region has a 21% of unemployment. College graduates make up 56% of the unemployed and in poverty. On the other hand, large cities and coastal areas in Tunisia have lower rates of poverty and unemployment. For example, Tunis has a 4.6% poverty rate and Ben Arous has a 5.6%, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace reports.


The rise in unemployment and poverty in Tunisia has contributed to a decline in the income of average Tunisians. The level of decline in income varies from rural to urban and from poor to non-poor. The following is a breakdown of the national, urban and rural income levels in Tunisia:
  • National Level: Due to a decline in output and production as a result of the lockdown, income on the national level fell by 8.6% within three months. That is an increase from the 5.7% decline within two months. Tunisians working in manufacturing and retail experienced the largest decline in income at 1.7%, according to the IFPRI report.
  •  Urban Level: On average, urban households will experience an 8.9% decline in income. The income of urban poor households, in particular, will drop by 176 Tunisian Dinar. However, the non-poor urban income had a larger decline by 439 Tunisian Dinar.
  • Rural Level: According to the IFPRI report, the rural household income declined by 7.8%. The rural poor income declined by 201 Tunisian Dinar. On the other hand, the non-poor rural income declined by 354 Tunisian Dinar.

Government Policies

In response to these national challenges, the Tunisian government has promised to implement several policies that aim to address these issues. In March 2021, the government announced that they will relax the bank loan-to-deposit ratios by providing 500 million Tunisian Dinars at a 2% interest rate to struggling hotels. By the end of June, the government has given grants to 460,000 workers who are most likely to lose their jobs. Also by the end of June, the government distributed 300,000 support packages to vulnerable groups.

However, COVID-19’s impact on Tunisia highlighted the bureaucratic issues of its government. In fact, some of the policies that the government proposed to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 did not undergo implementation because of administrative impediments. Therefore, COVID-19’s impact on Tunisia will likely continue for years as long as implementation issues persist.

– Abdullah Dowaihy
Photo: Flickr

Tunisia's Crisis
On July 25, 2021, Tunisia’s President, Kais Saied, used his emergency powers to decommission parliament and dismiss the Prime Minister. Saied claims that he did so per article 80 of Tunisia’s constitution, which allows him to use “exceptional measures in the event of imminent danger” for 30 days. At the time, the Ennahda Movement, an Islamist political party, was facing violent protests. Citizens have also been criticizing the government for its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created economic instability in a country already dealing with other forms of poverty and socioeconomic inequalities. As such, Saeid not only believes he is justified, but according to a poll conducted after the act, only 3% of Tunisians disagreed with his actions while 87% were in full support. However, many critics are calling Saied’s actions unconstitutional with multiple headlines referring to Saied’s takeover as a coup, a crisis and an affront to the democracy that the nation has worked to attain over the years. Still, many believe that a silver lining in Tunisia’s crisis exists.

Tunisia’s History

Tunisia has a history of political turmoil, poverty and inequality, beginning with the Arab Spring rebellions about a decade ago. These bloody protests resulted in the removal of Tunisia’s then-dictator of 27 years, turning the country into the first and only democracy to come out of the rebellions.

Unfortunately, Tunisia and its people have not had it easy since then. In fact, “for many Tunisians, it has been a decade of disappointment.” One man, Aroussi Mejri, claimed that “from what we’ve seen so far, democracy has no value,” and asked, “why did we revolt?” Tunisia has experienced increased unemployment rates of around 17%, a declining economy that, in the last year, has diminished by 8% and a corrupt government that has done little to help. As a result, some Tunisians have resorted to leaving the country or even suicide.

The last straw, it seems, was the government’s poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which exacerbated all of the aforementioned issues. Therefore, when President Kais Saied used his emergency powers to take control of the government, many Tunisians flooded the streets to show their support. For them, Saied is a silver lining in Tunisia’s crisis that has always been there.

Backlash After President Kais Saied’s Actions

When President Kais Saied took control of the government in Tunisia, headlines criticized and attacked Saied, referring to his takeover as a “coup,” “crisis” and “unconstitutional power grab.” In a United States Department of State press statement about the situation, Department Spokesperson Ned Price said, “Tunisia must not squander its democratic gains,” referring to the country’s time as an autocracy before the Arab Spring rebellions.

Criticisms of Saied continued as police attacked Al Jazeera offices in Tunis and detained Vivian Yee, a New York Times reporter, for two hours. Between assuming absolute power over the government and targeting journalists, some fear a return to authoritarian rule in Tunisia.

Support of President Kais Saied’s Actions

Shocking to many on the outside looking in, most Tunisians support President Kais Saied’s acquisition of power. This is because all of Tunisia’s governments after the Arab Spring rebellions have failed to fix poverty and inequality in the country, including the current government. As a matter of fact, according to Arab Barometer, in March 2021, three-fourths of the country claimed to be dissatisfied with the nation’s education system and two-thirds with the healthcare system. Only 10% do not believe Tunisia’s government is corrupt in some way. Tunisians are hoping that Saied can make a change and be the silver lining in Tunisia’s crisis.

The Silver Lining

Some news outlets and westerners might find that the silver lining in Tunisia’s crisis is its democracy and the reestablishment of Tunisia’s government, while most Tunisians might find that it is President Kais Saied. However, with so many questions left to answer about Saied’s intentions and what the future will hold, one could determine that Tunisia’s silver lining is really the aid that the country has received amid the chaos. For instance, with COVID-19 cases and related deaths increasing rapidly during the protests surrounding Saied’s coup, the country has received millions of coronavirus vaccine donations from other countries. Whether or not this is because of Tunisia’s heightened infection rates following Saied’s takeover is uncertain. Still, since the nation has been facing vaccine shortages, the donations will definitely help Tunisia tremendously, especially since 93% of Tunisians had not garnered vaccinations as of early August 2021.

Additionally, if Saied keeps his promise to allow civil society groups “freedom to operate,” like the International Labour Organization (ILO), an NGO with the mission to “break the cycle of poverty in Tunisia,” at least those in need should be able to receive the help and representation they deserve.

– Jared Faircloth
Photo: Flickr

Arab Spring
In 2010, the first of a series of protests and uprisings that would sweep across several countries took place. The Arab Spring, as it became known, began in Tunisia and spread to fellow nations such as Egypt and Libya. The purpose of this was to restructure these governments and bring about cultural liberation. In Tunisia and Egypt, uprisings successfully overthrew the government. With the old regimes dismantled, people believed that democracy would prosper in the region. In Libya specifically, citizens overthrew the government, causing the state to devolve into an ongoing civil war. Other states have seen more positive results.

No Absolute Victories

Many have considered Tunisia successful in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. In 2013, Tunisia passed a law with the intent of exposing government abuse and holding the abusers accountable. It founded the Truth and Dignity Commission in order to handle such cases by 2014. Over the course of four years, the commission opened 62,720 cases and held 49,654 private interviews. Finally, in May 2019, the commission began passing cases through 13 special courts.

However, Tunisia’s commission was not the first of its kind. It followed in the footsteps of several others before it, as seen in Chile and South Africa. When the commission’s motion to review government abuse cases ended, several key figures returned to power in 2014. People construed this as a step backward from the Arab Spring with the return of earlier members of government resulting in a political atmosphere hostile to past reflection. While government abuses are less common than they were prior to 2010, such societal issues continue to occur. Unreformed laws from the old regime continue to jail vulnerable people without free-speech protections.

Poverty in Conflict

Poverty and unequal distribution of employment opportunities helped precipitate the uprisings of the Arab Spring. The income gap across the population was so severe that poverty all but completely swallowed up the middle class. Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor who had endured constant harassment from law enforcement and struggled to make a livable wage, set himself on fire in front of the governor’s offices. This act brought the Arab Spring across Tunisia and immortalized Bouazizi as a symbol of the revolution.

In the case of the Arab Spring, conflict was a means for the people to bring about the changes they wanted to see in their countries. However, even when the long-term consequences were to the people’s benefit, the immediate aftermath of the uprising had its issues. Poverty makes an area more susceptible to conflict and war by undermining and weakening government institutions, overloading welfare services and diminishing economic performance. When conflict breaks out, the poor are often most vulnerable. Welfare goods and services often go toward the war effort, causing agriculture to suffer as a result of land destruction and security measures for protecting the elite.

In December 2010, a largely impoverished population overthrew the Tunisian government in a violent conflict that killed 338 people. The people dismantled the government, leading to the dissolution of political police and the relinquishing of assets back to the people. Despite this occurrence, the Tunisian people faced an uphill battle, with the need to restore and maintain normalcy remaining.

The International Labour Organization (ILO)

The International Labour Organization (ILO) emerged in 1919 in a partnership effort to set labor standards and develop policies intended to help people work in respectable conditions. Upon identifying the income gap in Tunisia as a large contributor to starting Arab Spring, the ILO works closely with local organizations. It strives to provide more lucrative work opportunities for the people. Specifically, the ILO initiated a project that will install a covered market in Sidi Bouzid, the sight of Bouazizi’s self-immolation. This program will ensure that vendors may gather to sell their wares in better conditions.

The ILO partnered with the E.U. to create the Programme to Support the Development of Underprivileged Areas (AZD), which teaches locals how to farm. The program has educated almost 100 people to prune and graft fruit trees, as well as to transport their crops to the market effectively. This organization does not limit itself to agriculture; the ILO serves also in teaching technical skills to women. As a result, increased numbers of women have the ability to self-provide and are becoming empowered in society.

Work programs will not solve all of the issues Tunisia’s been grappling with for the past decade. The country must still address issues of government corruption, regional stability and the rate of poverty. In the meantime, however, such programs help in returning some of the power back to the people – another holdover perhaps, from the Arab Spring.

Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

Cure BionicsCure Bionics, a startup company based in Tunisia, is finalizing its design for a prosthetic hand using 3D-printed components. Priced at $2,000, the model will cost significantly less than the bionic limbs typically imported from Europe. Cure Bionics could transform the lives of many Tunisians in need of prosthetic limbs to improve their quality of life.

Disabilities in Tunisia

Although not much data is available for limb differences in Africa, the 2002-2004 World Health Survey declared that 16.3 of Tunisia’s population possessed some sort of disability.

Although the country has passed groundbreaking legislation prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities, prejudice still hinders Tunisians with disabilities from fully participating in social settings. Moreover, people with disabilities often find voting difficult due to a lack of appropriate accommodations and many struggle to find good employment. Past research indicated that nearly 60% of Tunisians with disabilities did not earn any individual income, and the 40% who did work, earned 40% less than people without disabilities.

Social, political and economic exclusion means, broadly speaking, that Tunisians with disabilities are more acutely impacted by multidimensional poverty than Tunisians without disabilities. In turn, this has led to disparities in education, health and employment. The social exclusion of people with disabilities has a considerable cost in terms of quality of life with a life expectancy reduction of approximately 18 years.

Cure Bionics

Cure Bionics hopes to improve the lives of disabled people in Tunisia by making high-tech bionic limbs more accessible and affordable for the people who need them.

When the company’s founder, Mohamed Dhaouafi, was studying engineering at university, he began to research prosthetics after learning that one of his peers had a relative who was born without upper limbs and could not afford prosthetics. Dhaouafi quickly discovered that this is not uncommon: Of the approximately 30 million people in developing countries who have amputated limbs, only 1.5 million can obtain prosthetics.

After graduating from university, Dhaouafi continued to work on the prosthetic device he had begun designing in school. Today, Cure Bionics’ 3D-printed bionic hands have rotating wrists, a mechanical thumb and fingers that bend at the joints in response to the electronic impulses. The bionic hand can be adjusted to accommodate a child’s physical growth. It can also be solar-powered for use in regions without a reliable electricity supply. Since young people with limb differences require multiple prostheses as they age, Cure Bionics’ cost-effective approach could help to ensure that more children benefit from prosthetic limbs earlier in life.

Moreover, Dhaouafi hopes to offer a virtual-reality headset for physical therapy sessions. Geared especially toward children, the headset will allow recipients of bionic limbs to become familiar with their prosthetics and to practice moving and flexing their fingers in the fun and exciting context of a video game.

Looking to the Future

While Cure Bionics continues to finalize and test its bionic hand before making it available for purchase in Tunisia, Dhaouafi has already set himself another goal. He wants to offer high-tech, low-cost prosthetic limbs to people with limb differences throughout Africa, the Middle East and beyond.

Selected by the Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa program in 2019, Dhaouafi is helping to increase access to bionic prosthetics for people who could not otherwise have afforded the expense. In this way, he is also helping Tunisians with limb disabilities to overcome the formidable challenges of exclusion and escape multidimensional poverty,  improving their quality of life overall.

Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Tunisia
Human trafficking in Tunisia is prevalent, while also existing in several other countries. Trafficking has three parts including the act of moving an individual, manipulating an individual’s free will and using an individual for exploitation.

The Situation

Between April 2019 and February 2020, the National Authority identified 1,313 trafficking victims from among the potential victims that some government agencies referred to it along with 780 victims that the previous reporting period identified. Tunisia is a destination for human trafficking involving forced labor and forced prostitution, where traffickers coerce or manipulate individuals to work under no contract for less than minimum wage.

Trafficking is a large topic of world discussion. Most victims in Tunisia are children, women and people with disabilities. Women and young girls are the most at risk of becoming victims of trafficking in Tunisia. Traffickers force the victims into a domestic servitude partnership or involvement in criminal activities. Due to the severity of human trafficking in Tunisia, many new tactics have emerged to tackle the issue. Here are seven facts about human trafficking in Tunisia.

7 Facts About Human Trafficking in Tunisia

  1. Tunisia passed an anti-human trafficking law. In July 2019, the government of Tunisia started making procedures and guidelines for the National Authority and four other trafficking commissions to put more focus on monitoring, testing, studying, developing and tracking trafficking victims’ cases. The new law will criminalize sex and labor trafficking. Thus far, the new law has helped identify victims of human trafficking in Tunisia and push victimizers into the courtroom to undergo prosecution. The Tunisian government is also making efforts to address human labor trafficking recruitment practices. The Agency for Placement Abroad in Private Establishments (EPPA) filed 30 complaints to private employers for cases of fraud, extortion or abuses of Tunisian workers. The Tunisian government has officially requested that the Ministry of Women shut down the seven private employers that are recruiting Tunisian workers without proper EPPA registration.
  2. The National Authority created an anti-trafficking efforts website in February 2020. This online platform helps to provide education on how to stop and fight against human trafficking. This website is open to anyone who is a victim of human trafficking or has witnessed someone be a victim of human trafficking. The website includes a human trafficking hotline, education for health care professionals on red flags, shelter resources and more. To date, the website has aided trafficking victims so that they can receive medical and social support.
  3. More accountability exists for traffickers in Tunisia. Tunisia has implemented an increase in trafficking investigations. Tunisia increased its investigations in 2016 due to the passing of new legislation in July of that year. Human trafficking in Tunisia now has a punishment of 10 years in prison and a 50,000 Tunisian dinar fine, or $16,620 USD for cases with adult victims. Meanwhile, trafficking cases involving children in Tunisia are now punishable with 15 years in prison and a fine of 50,000-100,000 Tunisian dinar or $16,620-$33,230 USD. Tunisian law enforcement has worked on the implementation of several anti-trafficking laws as well.
  4. Human trafficking victims in Tunisia can receive legal assistance with protection and medical care. When Tunisia adopted legislation in August 2016, it started providing medical and social help for victims of all types of human trafficking. Tunisia is currently working on providing employment to victims as well. It has also assured rights to protection and medical services for human trafficking victims. The Ministry of Health runs hospitals in Tunis that have units with trained personnel committed to helping victims of trafficking in Tunisia. Additionally, Tunisia has dedicated 79 centers to trafficked youth in Tunisia and another three for men. These centers have provided health care to 69 foreign and local trafficking victims. Moreover, the Ministry of Social Affairs gave psychological and socio-economic assistance to 83 victims.
  5. The U.N. and Tunisia hosted workshops to aid in the fight against human trafficking. The Tunisian Ministries of Justice and Interior worked along with the United Nations Office of Drug and Crime (UNODC) to hold three-day workshops called “Capacity-Building for the Fight against Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling in Tunisia.” These workshops operated from April 16, 2013, to December 31, 2018, with the purpose of addressing topics like identifying human trafficking, judicial considerations, protection and help for victims and international assistance in fighting the problem of human trafficking in Tunisia. The meetings tried to dismantle the trafficking systems by implementing new tactics. The session of meetings led to Tunisia drafting anti-trafficking legislation.
  6. National victims referral mechanisms aid in rescuing Tunisian trafficking victims. The new national victim’s referral mechanism in Tunisia is helping trafficking victims. These new centers, which work to specifically target victims of human trafficking in Tunisia, utilize national hotline systems. Tunisia has used the network to rescue over 150 victims.
  7. Governmental efforts create positive changes for trafficking operation investigations. From 2014 to 2018, the number of victims Tunisia identified increased from 59 cases to 780 cases with a significant number of those cases being foreigners. A judge ended up overseeing 31 of the cases with one case ending with a conviction. Four of the cases against human trafficking in Tunisia will now undergo criminal prosecution, while the rest require further investigation.

Looking Ahead

The Tunisian government is steadily working toward reducing human trafficking. Tunisia is making victimizers more accountable and providing victims with further protective resources, while national organizations like the U.N. are stepping in to lend a helping hand. The fight to ending human trafficking is long but Tunisia is headed in the right direction.

– Libby Keefe
Photo: Flickr

Women’s rights in TunisiaFor neighboring countries, Tunisia is a model of women’s rights. Although women’s rights in Tunisia are lacking in some areas, activists and lawyers have consistently worked to dismantle patriarchal social structures.

Poverty in Tunisia

The national poverty rate consistently fell between 2005 and 2015. In 2005, the poverty rate in Tunisia was 23.1%, and in 2015, the poverty rate was 15.2%. Poverty tends to disproportionately affect inland regions in Tunisia.

Inland regions register higher rates of poverty than coastal regions. This difference is often stark. In Centre West, a landlocked region, the rate of poverty was 30.8%, whereas, in Centre Est, a coastal region, the poverty rate was 11.4%. The national poverty rate for men and women, however, was nearly identical.

Role of Women in the Economy

By 2005 the number of female entrepreneurs in Tunisia was nearly 5000 and had impressively doubled to 10,000 by 2008. Despite the expansion of women’s rights in Tunisia, which has played out through a legal process, deferral to traditional gender roles continues to hold women back from pursuing entrepreneurial roles in society. A 2010 study found that this may be explained by an “inadequate support system” for women in Tunisia who aspire to develop careers in the business world.

Mowgli Mentoring

The development of a strong support system for women entrepreneurs in Tunisia is the goal of Mowgli’s partnership with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The initiative partnered 12 Tunisian businesswomen with Mowgli mentors for a year. Its goal was to create a new culture of support and sustainability that will foster “economic and societal development throughout Tunisia.”

This approach is fundamental to shift the business culture in Tunisia. Institutional support for women entrepreneurs is tantamount to their success. Women entrepreneurs generally receive less institutional support than their male counterparts receive upon starting a new business. This includes a lack of financial support from financial institutions. Women entrepreneurs are also less likely to be offered opportunities to participate in business training, courses or schooling.

Women Entrepreneurs in Tunisia

Despite these obstacles, women entrepreneurs in Tunisia have developed innovative ways to improve support for women in business. Raja Hamdi is the director of the Sidi Bouzid Business Center. The center supports startups by providing mentors to evaluate business and market trends.

The Sidi Bouzid Business Center works closely with the Mashrou3i program, which is a partner of Go Market, a research and marketing firm located in the Kairouan region of Tunisia. Go Market was founded by female entrepreneur, Hayfa Ben Fraj. It works strategically in market analysis to support a “wide range of sectors and diverse fields such as technology, crafts and agriculture.”

Working Toward an Inclusive Economy

Although patriarchal structures of repression endure in Tunisia, the overall attitude is one of progress, equality and inclusion. Constituting one half of the population in Tunisia, women represent a latent workforce with the potential to reshape Tunisia’s economy through a series of innovative programs based on a culture of mutual support. Women’s rights in Tunisia will continue to increase as entrepreneurial opportunities for women flourish.

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

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