MENA region is experiencing tremendous challenges especially with the humanitarian crisis, displacement and decreased access to services; stagnant economic growth and high unemployment; food insecurity and escalating malnutrition rates. While good progress has been made in the eradication of extreme poverty in the MENA region, a significant proportion of children continue to live in households below the nationally defined poverty line.
In addition to monetary poverty, multidimensional poverty is a key challenge facing the region. The Arab Poverty Report launched recently in September 2017 indicates that around 40.6 per cent of households live in poverty, out of which, 13.4 per cent in extreme poverty. For children, multidimensional poverty is more prevalent, where 44.1 per cent of children are living in multidimensional poverty, out of which, 24.7 per cent are in extreme multidimensional poverty. Inequities are very high between rural and urban areas and wealth quintiles.
Social Protection is a mechanism that can effectively address monetary and multidimensional poverty facing children in MENA region. Currently, public spending on social protection in MENA is far from adequate in benefits and scale, and a large share still goes to subsidies and not focused on poorest and most vulnerable children. Although the percentage of children 0-14 in MENA is around 32%, only 0.8% of GDP is spent on child-focused social protection. Similarly, the overall public expenditures on social sectors that have direct impact on children such as health and education are not optimal in terms of adequacy, effectiveness and efficiency.