Authors:
Farouk El-Sabban*
Affiliation(s):
Department of Food Science and Nutrition, College of Life Sciences, Kuwait University, P.O. Box 5969 - Safat 13060, Kuwait
Dates:
Received: 10 February, 2015; Accepted: 21 February, 2015; Published: 23 February, 2015
*Corresponding author:
Farouk El-Sabban, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, College of Life Sciences, Kuwait University, P.O. Box 5969 - Safat 13060, Kuwait, Email: @
Citation:
El-Sabban F (2015) Status of Food and Nutrition in the Arabian Gulf Countries. Int J Agricultural Sci Food Technology 1(1): 001-002. DOI: 10.17352/2455-815X.000001
Copyright:
© 2015 El-Sabban F. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

The Arabian Gulf countries are also known as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. They consist of six countries that are located in the Arabian Peninsula or connected to it. The GCC was formed in 1981 and includes: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (Figure 1). Combined, all these countries have a population of nearly 50 million – the largest of which is Saudi Arabia (30 million) and the smallest is of Bahrain (1.6 million).

The discovery of oil in these countries in the last century has led them to enjoy the highest per capita income among countries of the world, with many socio-economic changes taking place. With the presence of wealth, many infrastructural and developmental projects were and are being planned. This increased the demand for manpower required, thus many migrant workers from many countries are found in these countries. While the total population in these countries is about 50 million, the ratio of citizens to non-citizens is variable. Available statistics show that percentages of non-citizens range from 32% in Saudi Arabia to 88% in the United Arab Emirates. The presence of different ethnic groups in GCC countries makes them enjoy a state of cultural diversity.

  1. Figure 1:
    Map of the Arabian Gulf Countries (from Google Maps).


Food production in the GCC countries is related to how much agricultural activities are taking place in each individual country. To start with, sea food production is practically adequate – as such countries have considerable fishing activities. Because of agriculture and related activities, Oman and Saudi Arabia produce nearly 30% of their food stock. However, all GCC countries rely on food imports at varying degrees. Recent statistics show that food imports for each of Oman and Saudi Arabia is about 70%, 80% for Kuwait, 85% for the United Arab Emirates, and slightly above 90% for each of Bahrain and Qatar. Dependence of all these countries on imported grains is very high, which ranges between 88% for Saudi Arabia and nearly 100% for Bahrain and Qatar. It should be noted that food availability in GCC countries is abundant, mainly due to the financial power to import food items from many producing countries in the world. However, it should also be noted that such food importation can be vulnerable because of some critical geographical considerations. Marine shipping is the main means for transporting food and goods to the GCC countries. These shipping lines use the Bosphorus strait and Gibraltar Strait (Figure 2) to enter the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal to enter the Red Sea, the Bab El Mandeb Strait (Figure 3) to reach the Gulf of Aden, and the Strait of Hormuz to enter the Arabian Gulf (Figure 4).

  1. Figure 2:
    The Strait of Gibraltar (from Google Maps).


  1. Figure 3:
    The Strait of Bab El-Mandab (from Google Maps).


  1. Figure 4:
    The Strait of Hormuz (red arrow) - from Google Maps.


The presence of any disturbances or unfavorable conditions at these strategic geographical bottle-necks would have serious consequences on food supply and security in such countries. As for availability of water, most GCC countries rely on the expensive process of desalination of sea water and to some extent on underground water. Thus; for the well-being of inhabitants of such countries, both food and water security ought to be very closely monitored. Also, all possible efforts ought to be directed towards the enhancement of agricultural production, with both of its plant and animal components.

Financial affluence for the last four decades led to a high standard of living. Such is manifested in all aspects of modern living, comfort and convenience. The reliance on cars for transportation, having air conditioned dwellings, TV and electronic means of communication and games influenced people to be practically sedentary. These influences and with the abundance of food and wide spread to fast-food establishments, societies in the GCC countries started to have their share of the prevalent nutrition-related problems of many western countries. The obesity problem is very prevalent in many segments of these societies and includes the children. Three GCC countries: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are among countries of the world with the highest incidence rate of diabetes mellitus. Other chronic diseases, such as those of the cardiovascular system, are also prevalent. Reported prevalent micronutrient deficiencies include iron-deficiency anemia in females and that of vitamin D in children and women. Well-being and general public health in these societies are the responsibilities of the Ministry of Health in each respective country. Such efforts also include raising awareness of healthy nutrition and lifestyle. However, more efforts and needed to combat these nutrition-related diseases. There is a dire need for scientific research on many fronts that are related to food, nutrition and lifestyle in such countries. All concerned entities, such as: government authorities, universities, research establishments and other interested civic bodies ought to join efforts in accurately identify and reporting on those prevalent conditions and diseases and collaborate on drawing sound strategies to alleviate or prevent them. Both national and regional awareness campaigns are highly recommended for all segments of populations in the Arab Gulf countries.


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