This section looks at the impact of war on different sections of society, these include children, women, environment, animals, poverty, food and water. To view the impact of war on each sector, please click the area of interest. Here are just a few of the impacts:
⚠ Over the last ten years, two million children have been killed in conflict. Over one million have been orphaned, over six million have been seriously injured or permanently disabled and over ten million have been left with serious psychological trauma. Children are also being deliberately recruited as combatants.
⚠ Disproportionate spending on war-making comes at the expense of funding for programs that benefit our lives and our planet.
⚠ Shoddy disposal of military toxins and weapons impact our health by polluting our water, land and air.
⚠ Loss to natural plant and animal life, damage to resources, and pollution of water sources.
THE IMPACT OF WAR ON THE ENVIRONMENT
War has far-reaching, long-lasting, multi-faceted effects on the environment. First, there is the actual physical disruption to the landscape. Weapons use kills wildlife, shatters soil systems, destroys plant life, and disrupts water flows, leaving ecosystems in turmoil. Large numbers of refugees in an area leads to deforestation (clearing of forests or trees) and erosion from the undue pressure put on the resources of a local environment. Armed forces’ military vehicles and weapons use can hasten desertification (fertile land becoming desert) in an area. Wetlands and other vegetation are at risk of burning, whether done deliberately in a strategic act, or as an indirect result of fighting. In the disorder of armed conflict and the mass movement of displaced people, national parks are encroached upon, rare species and precious resources are more frequently poached, and conservation efforts already in place fall to the wayside.
Pollution is another repercussion of war upon the environment. Weapons of mass destruction and conventional bombing can cause radiological, chemical, or bio-toxic contamination of natural habitats and wildlife. Oil spills or oil well fires also toxically pollute wildlife and their natural habitats. (See “Impact of War on Animals”) The radioactivity that results from the production and testing of nuclear weapons threatens the health of biological species. Large groups of displaced persons or armed forces generate waste that pollutes areas not equipped for proper treatment and disposal, both during and after a conflict. Well-intentioned non-governmental organizations have been polluters in conflict areas as well, generating waste that they cannot properly dispose of or using unsustainable resources in their projects.
The list of environmental effects from conflict is alarming: erosion, deforestation, desertification, extinction, migration, pollution, radiation – affecting everything from soil and water systems, whole plant and animal species, to the humans who must live in the affected areas. The damage is long-lasting and in some cases, irrevocable.
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THE IMPACT OF WAR ON CHILDREN
“The impact of armed conflict on children must be everyone’s concern
and is everyone’s responsibility…” - UNICEF
rmed conflict hurts children in a myriad of ways. Children die as a direct result of fighting, but this is not the only form of violence to which children are exposed. Millions of children live with injuries and disabilities caused by armed conflicts and political violence. More will be added to their number because of the risks of landmines and unexploded ordnance, even in areas where armed conflict has ceased. Thousands of children in armed conflict situations have been conscripted, kidnapped, press-ganged, terrorized, or otherwise forced by circumstance into becoming child soldiers. These child soldiers often move from support positions into the front of battle lines. They are exposed to and involved in acts of extreme violence. Some, girls especially, may be forced into sexual servitude.
Children form a large portion of populations displaced by armed conflicts. Displacement, while on the move and while in refugee camps, leaves children vulnerable to violence, abuse, and separation from their families. These children often suffer from malnutrition and hunger, and are exposed to and succumb more easily to disease. More children die from disease and malnutrition due to armed conflicts than die as a direct result of fighting. Displaced children lack proper health and education services. Once displaced, children may have difficulty establishing their nationality or identity and may become stateless. Children that are evacuated out of armed conflict situations run greater risks of being trafficked or illegally adopted.
When armed conflict touches a child’s life the fabric of their societies can be torn apart. Homes, communities, schools, health systems, and religious institutions may all be gone. Children lose their right to their lives and well-being, to be with their families and communities, and to be nurtured and protected. They suffer physical and psychological damage, moral and spiritual impacts, social and cultural losses. After being affected by armed conflicts children’s lives, and their futures, are never the same.
To learn more:
· United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF): www.unicef.org
· The Impact of War on Children: A review of progress since the1996 United Nations Report on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children, Graça Machel, Palgrave, New York, 2001.
When food and water systems are disrupted by war they take a long time to recover. Armed conflict disrupts the food supply. Production goes down when it becomes unsafe for farmers to leave their homes for their fields. Fewer acres are planted resulting in lower quantities. Farmers have a hard time accessing seeds and may not be able to travel to bring their crops to market. In some areas landmines planted in fields restrict access to agricultural land, even after the conflict ends. Livestock may be killed as a strategy of war, or incidentally, as a result of disease. (See “The Impact of War on Animals”) Fisheries also are impacted by war, such as the shrimp fisheries that declined to one percent of their previous level after the Gulf War, or the ban on fishing in the Danube that resulted from high levels of pollution after the NATO bombing in 1999. During conflicts people are less able to purchase food in markets due to loss of income and employment, and the breakdown of food storage and distribution systems.
Water has a complicated role in armed conflict. Water resources and systems can be points of contention as parties dispute control of limited resources. Some researchers are concerned that more conflicts in the future will center on the issue of water. Water systems can also be used as weapons or become targets during conflict. Armed conflict can destroy water sources, irrigation systems, and flood controls. Pollution in water sources, whether incidental or done deliberately, is a serious consequence. Often treatment plants are non-functional during and after conflict delaying the recovery of the water system. The environmental impacts of war like deforestation and erosion can also affect water quality and food production. (See “The Impact of War on the Environment”)
To learn more:
· Pacific Institute’s Worldwater.org: www.worldwater.org
THE IMPACT OF WAR ON WOMEN
“War hits home when it hits women and girls.”
It was October 2000 when the United Nations Security Council issued Resolution 1325. This was the first Security Council Resolution that addressed a fact that women in armed conflict areas around the world had known for a long time: that war has specific impacts on women.
Women and girls experience conflict and displacement in different ways than men due to differences in gender responsibilities as well as specific targeting of women by armed forces. Sexual violence, such as rape or sexual slavery, is one of the ways that women are so targeted. Systematic rape can be used as a weapon of war in ethnic cleansing. Whether ethnically motivated or not, sexual violence against women strikes into the core of a society, hurting families and communities and attacking culture in societies where women are seen as “repositories of a community’s cultural and spiritual values.” During armed conflicts women and girls may be forced into prostitution or trafficking, sometimes by their own government or military authorities. Poverty, hunger, and desperation can also force women into prostitution. With sexual violence comes an increased risk for women of contracting sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS.
Women, along with children, constitute the majority of the millions of persons displaced by armed conflicts. In the refugee and internally displaced persons (IDP) camps that are meant to shelter them, women encounter further negative impacts of war. Often men control the distribution of essentials such as food, water, firewood, and plastic sheeting. These men sometimes demand bribes or sexual favors for these life-saving necessities, putting women, especially female heads of households, at risk. Traditional social protection systems often unravel in camps leaving women and girls even more vulnerable. Food aid sometimes fails to meet special female nutritional requirements leading to malnutrition. Women’s needs may also be neglected by the health services available in camps when access is inadequate for women or the services are culturally inappropriate. Reproductive health services are often lacking.
Armed conflict also puts a strain on women and girls who remain at home. Domestic violence has been seen to increase under the stress of death, upheaval, and poverty that results from war and civil unrest. The absence of males from the household increases the workload for women and children. Some girls leave school because of the demands. Or they leave school when it becomes unsafe for them to leave their homes. In some cases this accelerates early marriage. The breakdown of health services and public education increases the impact of disease during these periods. On returning home after being forced to flee a conflict female heads of households may be denied property rights or lose custody of their children. It is exactly because of the monstrous impact that war has on women that they are crucial contributors to the work of conflict resolution and sustainable peace.
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THE IMPACT OF WAR ON ANIMALS
Wildlife populations are threatened by armed conflicts. Bombs and landmines kill animals, but the greatest losses are from encroachment upon their natural habitats. Wildlife populations are exposed to human and livestock diseases by the movement of human populations during war, whether traveling armed forces or refugees. Wildlife habitats are damaged by the pollution that occurs during armed conflicts. During the Gulf War, for example, a large amount of oil was spilled into the Gulf, threatening many bird species. During war, poaching becomes more commonplace, both by armed forces and refugees. The disruption to their habitats causes some animal populations to leave the area. Others that do not have that option may face extinction when conflict threatens.
Domestic animals feel the negative effects of war as well. Domestic livestock may lose access to veterinary care, allowing diseases previously controlled or treatable to spread rapidly and cause much damage. They are also susceptible to the food and water shortages that afflict their owners. Animals kept in zoos are distressed when armed conflict reaches them. They may lack food, water, and medicines, and their artificial habitats may be damaged or no longer properly maintained. Zoo animals also may be killed during a conflict to prevent their possible escape.
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