Helping 6 million Iraqis vulnerable to food insecurity
On World Environment Day, the United Nations is highlighting the importance of sustainable environmental management to ensure food security. Nearly 6 million Iraqis face food deprivation and vulnerability.
“The global theme for this year’s World Environment Day focuses on minimizing food waste,” said Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (DSRSG) for Iraq and Resident Humanitarian Coordinator, Ms. Jacqueline Badcock.
“Before we can talk about food waste in Iraq, we need to talk about food production and supply,” Ms. Badcock stressed. “Food security in Iraq is fragile. At least 1.9 million Iraqis or 5.7 per cent of the population are food deprived and do not have enough to eat each day. A further 4 million Iraqis are vulnerable to food insecurity, with one in four children experiencing stunted physical and intellectual growth due to chronic undernutrition.”
While conflict has had a major impact on Iraqi food production in recent years, climate change and environmental damage are also putting traditional agriculture at risk.
“Water levels in rivers and dams are dropping,” Ms. Badcock said. “Soil salinization is taking hold across large swathes of land, especially in the South. Climate variability brings flash flooding and crop damage, while poor land management has caused deforestation, desertification, and an increase in sand and dust storms that cause billions of dollars of damage each year,” she continued.
As a result, Iraq relies increasingly on imports to meet domestic food needs. The total value of agricultural imports in 1985 was USD 1.7 billion. In 2008, this grew to almost USD 5 billion, spent on basic foods such as wheat, cattle and rice. Although there are signs of growth in the agricultural sector, with production of dates, fruits and vegetables on the increase again, 60-70% of vegetables consumed by Iraqis still come from neighbouring countries.
“Iraq must commit to caring for its land and waterways,” said Ms. Badcock. “In 2020, the Iraqi population will exceed 42 million. It is essential that the Government continues to put in place the policies and good environmental practices that will reestablish Iraqi agriculture and ensure food supply for the most vulnerable.”