“We cannot waste a single moment” – Pres Ali highlights glaring realities of war on food security

President Dr Irfaan Ali

The cost of war and conflict have dire impacts on global food security, and without conscious efforts to improve its stability, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) created by the United Nations will never be reached.

Highlighting this unfortunate reality was President Dr Irfaan Ali in a new study, titled: The Cost of War and Conflict to the Environment and Food Security, which successfully analysed the core issues surrounding the cost of war and conflict to the environment and food security.

The President drew attention to the fact that war and conflict threaten several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Zero Hunger (SDG2), Good Health and Well-Being (SDG3), and Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions (SDG16).

“If we are to save our world, our people and our future, we cannot waste a single moment; we must recognise the impact these actions are having, and face up to the uncalculated and ignored consequences of war and conflict,” he penned.

Failure to enhance food security will not only undermine the efforts of countries to achieve the SDGs by 2030, but also result in many more families facing difficulty accessing adequate nutritious food to meet their daily dietary requirements.

The perpetuation or worsening of food insecurity will also have severe implications for the physical and mental health of affected individuals, leading to long-term negative impacts on the communities and countries they belong to.

The study finds that global food insecurity is exacerbated by conflict, climate change, and economic shocks. It highlights the significant increase in acute food insecurity due to armed conflict, with millions facing difficulties in accessing nutritious food.

An often-overlooked fact is that conflicts not only lead to hunger in the direct sense, where food scarcity and malnutrition are prevalent, but they also have a hidden consequence even in regions and conflict zones where hunger might not be as severe. This hidden consequence is the inability to access a healthy diet, the President added.

“Even in areas less directly affected by conflict, there are often disruptions to food systems, infrastructure, and markets. This can lead to challenges in accessing diverse nutritious foods necessary for a balanced and healthy diet. Factors such as increased food prices, limited availability of fresh produce, and disrupted supply chains contribute to this problem”, the President wrote.

Additionally, conflicts can lead to the displacement of populations, loss of livelihoods, and economic instability, all of which contribute to difficulties in accessing healthy food options, with long-term impacts on the health and well-being of individuals and communities contributing to issues such as malnutrition, stunted growth, and increased susceptibility to numerous non-communicable diseases.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that as of September 2023, a total of 114 million persons were displaced. In less than four months, 85 per cent of the population of Gaza had been displaced because of the conflict with Israel. The economic cost of war is substantial, with ten affected countries alone incurring losses equivalent to 41 percent of their GDP in 2019.

The effects of armed conflicts are further compounded by climate events like droughts and floods, that devastate food supplies and inflict environmental costs. A total of 117 million persons faced acute food insecurity due to armed conflict.

“Conflict-induced shocks to food security disproportionately affect smallholder farmers, exacerbating existing challenges such as income uncertainty and weather shocks. Conflict creates a circular relationship with food insecurity, as the latter increases the likelihood of conflict outbreaks, perpetuating a cycle of instability and hunger,” the report underlines.

Over the past decade, the rise in conflict events has undermined progress in improving food security and nutrition, with millions at risk of famine in conflict-affected regions.

Displacement perpetuates environmental degradation and food insecurity in resettled areas, marked by deforestation, water scarcity, and unsustainable production practices.
The environmental toll of warfare extends globally, with the US Department of Defense ranking as the world’s largest institutional consumer of oil and a top greenhouse gas emitter.

In 2019 alone, the U.S. military emitted 59 million tons of CO2, with the war in Iraq generating over 141 million tons of CO2 emissions in four years – the equivalent of CO2 emission from 25 million cars in one year.

These findings underscore the significant contribution of global military activities to greenhouse gas emissions, highlighting the urgent need for environmental considerations in conflict resolution and military operations.