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The Hidden Costs of War - Hunger and Poverty

The new UN General Assembly session opens next week, and there’s a call for the United Nations to address what one group calls the hidden costs of war. The NGO ActionAid says that of the food crises facing nearly 40 countries in mid-2006, 25 were caused by conflict.

Thomas Johnny is a policy research manager for ActionAid in Sierra Leone. He’s currently in New York, awaiting the UN meeting. He spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the hidden costs of war.

“The hidden cost of war I can say one is hunger; two is the increased level of trauma and continuous deprivation of people; and people trying to recover from the loss of relatives, friends and even property. But I think hunger is one of the most hidden costs of war,” he says.

He says many countries struggle with those issues after conflicts, including Sierra Leone.

“Sierra Leone…with a population of about five million people, I think, 26 percent of people still go to bed without a square meal…go to bed hungry. And I think it was one of the major deciders of the recent elections (in Sierra Leone),” he says.

Johnny wants the United Nations to act on the problems. “I think we are here to bring the voices of the poor to the UN. We want to push the UN to put issues of hunger on the agenda. What we’ve seen is that actually hunger is on the increase. We want to ensure that the UN actually has very strong legislation on hunger. We want to ensure that member states of the UN actually protect, respect…people’s right to food. We also want to ensure that they have special summits where issues of hunger will be discussed. And also ensure that at least the UN adopts (an) adequate legal framework to ensure the right to food,” he says.

ActionAid says that the “number of people in five African countries crippled by conflict over the past 15 years – DRC, Burundi, Eritrea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – tripled from 12 million to 36 million.”