“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.”
The United Nations manages a range of projects to support the immediate needs of Iraqis vulnerable to food security, as well as programmes that support sustainable environmental management and build the capacities of Government institutions and farmers. For more information, please refer to this fact sheet
NCCI’s brief provides an overview of what appear to be widespread, and often lethal, health effects from war contaminants in Iraq, namely Depleted Uranium (DU). Clearing DU-contaminated war remnants from areas across Iraq, as well as providing support to Iraqi victims of DU contamination, are critical issues for rebuilding this war-torn nation. NCCI published this paper with information and eye-witness testimony from doctors, researchers, NGOs leaders, and activists in the field who are struggling to respond to Iraq’s ostensibly growing health crisis and raise the international community’s awareness concerning apparent Iraqi DU victims’ plight.