BAGHDAD, Iraq—With an estimated 4.4 million Iraqi citizens now requiring immediate assistance from the United Nations, and an estimated additional 3.6 million citizens suffering from internal displacement, many government and humanitarian officials have expressed strong concerns over the security of Iraq’s future.
The Islamic State (IS) has demonstrated an overwhelming disregard for the respect of human life, from public executions to mass murders to the recruitment of young child soldiers. Officials of the extremist organization’s self-declared caliphate disseminated images last month depicting members of the IS seizing an Iraqi food distribution truck, slaughtering and then burning hundreds of halal chickens that originated from the United States.
In the wake of a seemingly uncontrollable military campaign that has swept across Syria and Iraq, IS militants have succeeded in wrestling control of three Northern Iraqi provinces during the past year. Officials have warned of the wide-ranging economic and humanitarian implications that will occur as a result of the firm control the militant forces now hold over an estimated one-third of Iraq’s total grain production.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) warned last month that Iraq is in the midst of a significant food-security crisis due to the impacts of labor shortages, transportation disruption and decrease in market access. Officials have expressed concerns that these new variables, caused directly by the violent war being waged by the IS, will begin to dramatically effect harvests, internal production and resource supply.
Mahmoud al-Sayed, a local wheat farmer situated south of Baghdad, warned in an interview, “This is really a serious crisis that we’re facing right now.”
As food prices continue to increase across Iraq due to the persistence of the conflict, the UNFAO has also warned that the food insecurities currently observed will only grow larger as impoverished and displaced populations begin to require greater assistance.
While a food crisis that is estimated by the United Nations to currently be affecting over 10 million Iraqi citizens continues to grow across this embattled country, IS militants have demonstrated clear intentions to encourage the expansion of this chaotic humanitarian crisis through the use of propaganda and bloody tactics.
Contrary to the often destructive and heinous demeanor of the Islamic State, agricultural experts have reported that the extremist organization actually garnered a more bountiful harvest this year than free farmers across southern Iraq witnessed. Many officials expressed concerns last year when the IS captured the Mosul Dam in Northern Iraq that the organization would attempt to destroy the dam with explosives, subsequently flooding a large swath of farmlands throughout Iraq.
The IS has demonstrated willingness to deploy such desperate tactics, as the release of dam near Fallujah controlled by the militants last year resulted in the displacement of more than 50,000 Iraqi citizens.
While the IS may control a large portion of Iraq’s wheat production, they have not chosen to degrade or eliminate the processing of this agricultural resource; Iraq has reported an annual national harvest of 4.4 million tons of grain, as opposed to 3.9 million tons last year.
With no clear end in sight to the senseless violence that has engulfed Iraq, aid agencies must now recognized the necessity for a more comprehensive strategy in coping with the growing number of displaced citizens requiring humanitarian assistance.