COVID-19 and climate change are a perfect storm for violent conflict
By Beatrice Mosello and Adam Day
The pandemic has affected both rich and poor countries alike, but for those already struggling with poverty, COVID-19 is creating new risks of instability. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, severe movement restrictions during the pandemic have combined with existing food insecurity that was already at record levels due to droughts, flooding and pest infestation. Similarly, in sub-Saharan Africa, the pandemic is hitting especially hard in communities that were already suffering from a serious loss of livelihoods due to shifting rainfall patterns, extreme weather and desertification. In the Horn of Africa, emergency responses to address rising COVID-19 cases have shifted resources away from pesticides to maintain crops in the face of massive locust infestations.
COVID-19 has proven an unexpected boon for rebel armed groups around the world, many of which have found ways to turn it to their advantage. Similarly, Boko Haram has used the pandemic as another rallying cry for recruitment, including in areas where climate change has contributed to a significant downturn in livelihoods. In these settings, the combination of climate-induced socioeconomic vulnerability and the negative impact of the pandemic is driving further armed group activity.
A major risk today is that national governments treat COVID-19 and the impacts of climate change separately, rather than as a set of combined risks. Shifting resources from programs supporting livelihoods to programs delivering medical care may make sense at first glance, but ignores the interrelated nature of these crises.