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Conflict reduces availability of production input and income, increases the number of days households had to rely on less preferred foods, and limits the variety of foods eaten and the portion size of meals consumed. While existing studies examine the impact of conflict on different food security measures (e.g., Food Consumption Score, Food Insecurity Experience Scale), the relationship between these measures as well as their relationship with political, economic, and agricultural factors remain under explored. Food insecurity may not only be an externality of conflict but also food deprivation may be utilized as a weapon to discourage residency in contested territories or to incentivize rebellions.
This paper examines the association between political factors (e.g., violence, policies that require permit for passage in one’s own hometown), economic factors (e.g., loss of assets, unemployment), agricultural factors (e.g., shortage of water, poor weather conditions), and food insecurity experience and dietary diversity in a conflict setting—that of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). The study employs generalized structural equation models to analyze the ‘Survey on socio-economic conditions for Palestinian households 2014’ dataset compiled by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics—which contains a representative sample of the population in the oPt at governorate and locality levels.
We find that in the West Bank, residence in Area C—administered by Israel in both civil and security issues and contains illegal Israeli settlements and outposts—is associated with a higher level of agricultural hardship (p < 0.01) but lower economic hardship (p < 0.01) and a higher dietary diversity (p < 0.001), as compared to those living outside of Area C. In the Gaza Strip, living within one kilometer to a buffer zone is associated with lower dietary diversity (p < 0.01), higher level of political hardship (p < 0.01), and higher level food insecurity experience (p < 0.01) compared to not living in close proximity to a buffer zone. Concomitantly, in the Gaza Strip, food insecurity experience is associated with approximately a one-point reduction in dietary diversity as measured by the food consumption score (p < 0.01).
The results suggest that broader socio-political conditions in the oPt impact different aspects of food security through augmenting the economic and agricultural hardships that are experienced by the residents. As such, it is important to address these broader political and economic structures in order to have more sustainable interventions in reducing food insecurity.