Conflicts and climate change deepen the global food crisis
The world is facing one of the most serious food crises over the last decades. The main factors behind it are armed conflicts, including the Russian war in Ukraine, COVID-19, climate change, and the ongoing political instability in many parts of the world. Currently, around 2.3 billion people are moderately or severely food insecure. 700-800 million of them (one out of ten) are starving or find themselves on the brink of famine with an absolute majority living in two regions: Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Armed conflict is the dominant factor as about 60 percent of the world’s population that face chronic food insecurity live in countries affected by it. Due to war, agricultural and grazing lands are decreasing every year. Conflict constantly disrupts or completely halts production, processing, transportation, and sales of agriculture produce. Humanitarian aid, which in some cases can be the sole source of food, becomes a weapon in the hands of warlords and dictators alike. Somalian jihadist group Al Shabaab, the Syrian regime, and various militant groups in Sahel are but a few examples of malevolent actors blocking or manipulating the distribution of humanitarian aid or even destroying it.
Both local and major conflicts often have global repercussions for the hunger problem. Ongoing Russian war in Ukraine is one such example. The conflict itself and the adjoining issues (sanctions, disruption of grain exports, rising prices of energy, etc.) have caused food prices to rise worldwide. Twenty-six countries, mostly in Africa and Asia, were particularly affected as they used to import at least half of their consumed wheat from Ukraine and Russia. Available data suggest that in 2022, the number of people facing severe food insecurity increased by 7.6–13 million due to Russian aggression in Ukraine alone.
Climate change is another important issue threatening the global food supply. Natural disasters strike different parts of the world with long lasting effects. The droughts are getting longer and more frequent with around half of them occurring in Africa. Many countries in Africa and Asia suffer from lack of safe drinking water.
Devastating floods cause billions of dollars in damage; meanwhile, rising sea level threatens coastal communities. Within the next 30 years, climate change could force at least 200 million people to leave their homes.
Food shortage and interconnected poverty are a threat to hundreds of millions of lives. Firstly, people constantly threatened by hunger, especially young males, are an easier recruitment target for various radical groups, such as Islamic state, Al Qaeda, and their regional affiliates. Additionally, migration flows of vulnerable individuals can be used by hostile anti-Western regimes as a hybrid warfare tool or exploited by terrorist organisations to facilitate movement of their members.