The first casualty of war is, without exception, food

Friday June 17 2022

The UN says around 20 million tonnes of grain are currently stuck in Ukraine from the previous harvest

By Freddy Macha

The English writer, H.G. Wells once wrote of this most evil activity of the human race: “ If we don’t end war, war will end us.”

And what does “end” mean?

It does not ONLY mean death. Death is like a deep sleep.

Oh, boy! It is the suffering “before” dying that is dangerous, painful and horrible. Right now, we are in June 2022. Forty-six years ago on June 16, the Soweto riots kicked off. They began innocently as a student uprising, but launched a movement that gave us not just an awareness of what was going on in South Africa and its apartheid nightmare, but bold leaders such as Steve Biko. There is a movie about Biko starring the African American actor Denzel Washington. Yes. Cry Freedom (1987) is as dense, intense as it is 100 percent uncomfortable to watch. Why?

Because of war. The Jamaican musician Bob Marley, who would have been 77 years old now, once put the speech of Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie into an anti-war reggae classic:

“Until the philosophy that holds one race superior and another inferior, is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war...”


War is dirty, and like I declared at the beginning, if we do not end war, it will end us. Citizens, what does “end” mean?

We humans require three basic things to live and survive. Food, shelter and clothing. Food SHALL always be supreme. War’s first casualty is food, leading to food shortages. Bullets are mean, but lack of food is a horror. Starvation offers signs of the “beginning of the end.”

Right now, as the war rages on in Ukraine, we have two things. All eyes are glaring and crying at Ukraine. Places like Palestine and Afghanistan have been forgotten. In the blink of an eye. According to UN reports, in May 2022, 11 days of hostility broke out. The Israeli military reported that it struck about 1,500 targets in Gaza, killing 120 Palestinian civilians. Meanwhile, Palestinian armed groups, including Hamas, launched rockets and mortars towards Israel, resulting in the death of 12 civilians and seven Palestinians in Gaza.


You might have forgotten. But the truth is the current 2022 bloodshed is not just Ukraine.

Conflict and wars keep chewing. The same United Nations has also acknowledged at least 4,031 people mowed down and murdered in Ukraine, including 200 children. In war, it is not just about bullets, bombs and fire. There is rape. Looting. Insanity. Numerous forms of injustices. War is sinister. War is what?

War is dirty, war is a monster.

Again, “if we don’t end war, war will end us.” H.G. Wells lived from 1866 to 1946. His books were about humanity and he had an anti-war stance. He was one of the early Fabians – a socialist philosophy said to have impressed our founding father, late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.

We humans love fighting.

As these 2022 wars rage on, three parts of the world have expressed concerns with food scarcity.

Lately, in Pakistan (reported to be the largest importer of tea) calls were made to drink less tea. London’s Evening Standard said in 2021 Pakistan imported tea worth £501 million. “Drinking less tea a day would bring down the cost of Pakistan’s high import bills.” The Standard said.

War affects us in various ways, but food is always the first casualty.

How about in East Africa? Last week a news item in the Sunday Times alleged that folks have began starving in northern Kenya due to a lack of wheat. Wheat mostly comes from Ukraine and Russia, the report said, and Africans are feeling the pinch.

I kind of felt uneasy when the reporter noted that wheat is used to make ugali, an East African staple food. Is ugali made from wheat or maize? What are these guys trying to imply?

If it is bread, chapati and maandazi, yes. They are wheat-based. Ugali or sima as they say in Kenya, is pure maize or corn.

Still, this war is causing food MISERY.

Early this week, UK citizens were advised to start considering eating venison instead of beef. This is for two reasons. Beef means cattle and cattle means destroying or harming the environment. Venison, i.e. deer meat, is similar to bush meat in Africa. Wild animals do not harm our vital esteemed earth space like cows.

Secondly, the government’s advice is about pondering food alternatives. Those who are squeamish, or not too keen to eat certain types of foods, will have to begin recharging and reconsidering other options WHILE humans continue slaughtering each other.

I would say “Make Love Not War”.

That 1960s slogan, created at the height of the Vietnam- American war, will always stand strong, stronger, strongest.

Disclaimer: The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Citizen.