As an organization that defines hunger broadly, ELCA World Hunger is concerned with the many root causes of hunger. One of these root causes is, of course, war. And the current situation is Gaza is especially poignant for anyone who wants to explain how war causes hunger. It is demonstrating so many of the effects in such a short period of time.
In perusing the news coverage, I found this page today on the BBC Web site. It provides a summary of several of the problems in just one page. Getting food is the most direct hunger issue. People are running out of food in their homes, warehouses that store food are too dangerous to access, distribution paths are disrupted, bakeries lack cooking gas to make food, outside food can’t cross the borders in sufficient quantities, and the price of the food that is available continues to rise.
Beyond the food itself, energy supplies have been interrupted, which means that people don’t have the electricity or gas to cook, even if they have the food. More problematic, water is running short as the pumps at wells run out of fuel to lift the water from the ground. In addition, lack of power has halted the pumps at wastewater treatment plants, causing sewage to flood neighborhoods, farmland, and sea.
Those are just some of the immediate problems caused by war. The longer-term issues are just as grave. On this page, a woman mentions that local farmers have not been able to harvest their crops for two weeks. Depending how long the fighting continues and how much damage is done to the crops, war can destroy food supplies for a whole season as well as the livelihoods of those who are employed in the local food system. Damage to the fields and soil can destroy that chain for longer than a season. In addition, damage to other infrastructure – roads, businesses, government buildings – can interrupt livelihoods and basic services in many sectors, and for a place like Gaza that doesn’t have a lot of wealth and assets to start with, recovery can be a long road even in the best of circumstances. And none of this even addresses the loss of life – often working age men who provide income for their families.
Gaza is the location grabbing headlines at the moment, but the factors are similar in every war. So until war ends everywhere, as people engaged in the fight against hunger, the trick is to not grow weary of long-lasting wars, or to forget them as soon as they’re over, but to keep on fighting for those affected and for a different future. Ironic, the wording, no?