The War for Global Health

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GRC 2023 Global Essay Competition Top 30

By Peyton Qian

In war-ravaged countries around the world, families struggle to hold on for another day. Ten-year-old Khitam dreams of becoming an art teacher but has only known hunger, deprivation, and war from the Syrian crisis. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, decades of civil war mean that little Tshela and her five siblings are severely malnourished. In a neighboring nation up North, Nyakega faces constant hunger from the South Sudan conflict, forcing her to abandon the hopes of becoming a social worker to help her community and instead focus on scraping together her next meal.

Conflict is the leading cause of hunger, and in violence-stricken countries, children face malnourishment, disease, and psychological harm, which undermines their health and their futures. Families are disrupted, displaced, and torn apart. Today, two billion lives are affected by war, a number that will continue to rise without intervention. Recent warfare trends have increased the severity and significance of effects on individuals living in these conditions. First, wars are lasting much longer than ever, many reaching 3 or 4 decades. Increasingly, wars are also being fought in highly populated areas, such as Syria, Ukraine, and Afghanistan. Thus, a growing population lacks the basic needs of food, water, shelter, and medical care; psychological trauma and sexual violence are unaddressed in many victims, and there is an immediate need to connect displaced families. Ending war would improve human quality of life on a global scale.

Moreover, warfare comes with a high price. Literally. Global military spending reached 2.24 trillion US dollars in 2022 and is steadily rising. Funds poured into war and arms can be used instead to help hospitals and medical-care infrastructures, provide better food, water, and sanitation to impoverished individuals, and enhance medical research. If we can end conflict, we can use more resources to save lives instead of destroying them.

Understanding why war happens is crucial for finding a solution to end conflict. There are causes related to religion and wars of emotional revenge. Rulers being unaccountable for their citizens and being ideological also play a significant role in starting conflict. Additionally, leaders often underestimate the costs of war, and when two nations cannot reach a compromise, the result is violence. All of this eventually compounds and leads to large-scale conflicts.

There are a few ways to solve this looming threat. Currently, international laws such as the United Nations, Geneva Conventions, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) exist to prevent and remove threats to maintain global peace. Even so, they are only partially effective because governments are not legally bound and are not required to follow these regulations. Existing laws and treaties need to apply to all countries with strict measures to avert future global conflicts successfully. If governments don’t outlaw war itself, then we must outlaw weaponization, the tools used for violence. We need to prevent corporations and governments from profiting off buying and selling weapons of mass destruction, making the production of armaments illegal once and for all. World laws should be established to penalize anyone who makes weapons, from individuals and companies to governments. This can be done if an independent institution or system is in place to maintain the illegality of war preparation. When we cut off the supply of weaponry, leaders and governments can no longer start conflicts.

Ultimately, Khitam, Tshela, and Nyakega’s stories are not unique and are ones that will be repeated among billions of lives if we do not intervene. Warfare carries death and destruction, but also malnutrition, disease, hunger, and trauma, ingrained into the lives of vulnerable victims. Yet conflict is entirely man-made, and we have the power to stop it. The only war we should be fighting is one that ensures a better quality of life for everyone around the world.


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International Committee of the Red Cross. “Global Trends of War and Their Humanitarian Impacts.” International Committee of the Red Cross, October 17, 2018. Jackson, Matthew, and Massimo Morelli. “The Reasons for Wars -an Updated Survey.” Stanford

University, 2009.
SIPRI. Countries with the Highest Military Spending Worldwide in 2022 (in Billion U.S. Dollars). April 24, 2023. Chart. Statista. World Food Program USA. “Children at War: 6 Stories from the Most Dangerous Places on Earth.” World Food Program USA, November 19, 2021.

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The War for Global Health
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