While hunger and malnutrition are commonly associated with poverty, in reality, conflict is one of the main drivers of food insecurity. In fact, conflict is now the largest driver of forced displacement, with over 68.5 million people displaced due to violence.
Conflict can have a devastating effect on food security, both in the short and long term. Let’s delve in and explore:
- Impact on food production
Conflict can interfere with the production of food by disrupting or destroying farmland, livestock, and other agricultural infrastructure. It can also lead to a shortage of labour, as it draws people away from their homes to fight or to flee conflict. This can result in a decline in production, and lower crop yields.
- Impact on food distribution
Conflict can disrupt the distribution of food. Transportation routes may be blocked, leading to shortages of food in some areas and surpluses in others. Combatants may steal or confiscate supplies, or use them to fund the war effort. In addition, merchants may exhibit reluctance to transport goods through areas where there is fighting, leading to inflated prices and shortages of essential items.
- Impact on food access
Conflict can prevent people from accessing food. People may be forced to flee their homes, making it difficult or impossible to get access to food. In addition, conflict can lead to increased prices, making it difficult for people who are already struggling to afford enough food to eat. Malnutrition is also a common problem during times of conflict, as people have reduced access to essential nutrients.
- Aggravates pre-existing vulnerabilities
In addition, conflict exacerbates pre-existing vulnerabilities such as poverty, inequality, and hunger. For example, conflict-related food insecurity most often affects women and children, as they have less access to resources and face greater risks of violence.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further intensified the effects of conflict on food security, with an estimated 130 million people now at risk of hunger due to economic disruptions and loss of livelihoods. As the pandemic continues to spread, it is likely that the number of people affected by conflict-related food insecurity will only increase.
Mitigating the effects of conflict on food security
To address the issue of conflict-related food insecurity, it is essential to first understand the root causes of conflict. In many cases, conflict arises from a combination of political, economic, social, and environmental factors. Fixing these underlying causes is essential to preventing and resolving conflict.
Second, it is important to address the immediate needs of those affected by conflict. This includes providing access to food, water, and other basic necessities. It also includes protecting civilians from violence and supporting displaced persons.
Third, it is crucial to ensure that combatants, or those who support them, do not target agricultural facilities, infrastructure, or products in any way during the conflict.
Lastly, it is necessary to build peace and stability in order to sustainably address the issue of conflict-related food insecurity. Some means for doing this include economic development, good governance, and social cohesion.
As you can see, solving conflict-related food insecurity is a complex challenge that requires a multi-faceted approach. However, by understanding the root causes of conflict and taking action to address the immediate needs of those affected, it is possible to build a more peaceful and secure world for all.