Tunisia: Food shortages worry coeliac disease sufferers


As Tunisia suffers from a financial crisis and rapid inflation, many basic food items such as bread, milk and rice are lacking and regularly rationed at supermarkets, according to Reuters, September 4. 

The shortages are due to few imported goods being brought into the country. A problem that has occurred since last year. 

Whilst rice is not as common in the North African country as couscous and pasta, many depend on it as it is estimated that around 100,000 Tunisians suffer from coeliac disease. 

Siwar Derbeli, a young girl aged 18 who lives in Tunisian capital Tunis, told Reuters that she worries as rice is one of the only foods that she can eat due to having coeliac disease. 

The disease is a condition where one’s immune system attacks one’s own tissues when they eat gluten.  

Derbeli said in an interview with Reuters, “You come home and can’t find the basic food you need to eat. It’s a very unfortunate situation” 

Hasna Arfaoui (Derbeli’s mother) has also said that it is a distressing situation as basic goods can often be seen missing from supermarkets. 

Arfaoui stated that,We have been facing difficulties with her diet, and it has been very tiring for us. The specialised food she needs is expensive and we often struggle to afford it. Basic ingredients like rice are missing” 

Arfaoui would often prepare gluten free pasta-based meals for her daughter however these sorts of items can be difficult to find and expensive, making it an inconvenience for the unemployed single mother of three. 

It is believed that no ships carrying rice are expected to arrive in Tunisia until December of this year and that stocks of subsidised rice have nearly run out. 

Tunisia’s government claimed that the shortages are not due to the crisis in public finances despite many analysts and trade unions in the country noting that the government is stopping the importing of subsidised goods to deal with a budget deficit of 4.64 billion Euros (equivalent of around 15.5 billion Tunisian Dinars). 

READ: Bread and Circuses: Tunisia’s continuing struggle with shortages

A President under scrutiny, Kais Saied was the target of protests by bakers last month as they went on strike following the government’s decision to withhold the sale of subsidised flour to private bakeries. 

The bread shortage in the country has forced the closures of many bakeries as Saied claimed that there should only be one type of bread for all Tunisians. 

The country is highly reliant on wheat, a good that is declining because of Tunisia’s rise in temperatures and droughts. 

The Tunisian government continues to feel the pressure as Tunisians are angered at the financial crisis and shortages of food in general. 

This was quite possibly the reason why Mr. Saied sacked Prime Minister, Najla Bouden in early August. Her government was seen by many as being incapable of solving social and economic crises. 



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