Overview: Famine

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Author: Yusur al Bahrani

In order to prevent famine and end an existing one, it is crucial to understand what famine is. This introduction will help define famine and identify some of the causes. While famine is a preventable threat to the human population, it will not end if the root causes are not addressed.

According to the www.dictionary.com definition, famine is a “noun” that means: Extreme and general scarcity of food, as in a country or a large geographical area; any extreme and general scarcity; extreme hunger and starvation. This is a broad definition, which could include many countries and geographic areas hit by food insecurities.

However, famine is not a word to be used lightly. Therefore, international organizations have agreed on a scientific frame that would help them identify when to declare a nation to be suffering from famine. According to United Nations, a famine can be declared only when certain measures of mortality, malnutrition, and hunger are met. The measures are:

  1. At least 20 per cent of households in an area face extreme food shortages with a limited ability to cope.
  2. Acute malnutrition rates exceed 30 per cent.
  3. The death rate exceeds two persons per day per 10,000 persons.
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13. All states shall accelerate SDG efforts to end poverty and enable all to obtain food and potable water

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Rapporteur: Marianne Larsen

Hunger and Famine

Project Save the World addresses six global threats that may each sharply break from the routine challenges of human experience, with quick catastrophic effects. We do not focus on chronic or intermittent problems that are not existential challenges to humankind or our civilization. Thus, we address famine but not “food insecurity,” or ordinary “hunger” — the shortage of nutrients that have frequently been experienced, probably by the majority of human beings throughout history. However, we recognize that it would be wrong and foolish to ignore “normal” hunger, so our Platform for Survival mentions it briefly in this plank, especially in connection with the current campaign by the United Nations to promote the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Accordingly, we should at least touch upon the challenge feeding the human population in the decades ahead before turning to famine as the main topic of this article.

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14. All states shall support improvements of soil health for resilient food production and carbon sequestration

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Rapporteur: Joanna Santa Barbara

This plank is directed at two of the six items on the Platform for Global Survival — Global Warming and Famine. It is also relevant to another major threat to human survival — the biodiversity crisis.

Definitions

Soil health

A widely used definition is that of the US Department of Agriculture: the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans.

Soil is composed of inorganic matter (ground up rock), organic matter (living and dead plants, animals, bacteria, protozoans, actinomycetes and fungi), air and water. Soil health depends on complex interactions between these components. These determine the physical structure of the soil, its chemical composition and its nutrient levels, all of which affect the capacity of the soil to sustain life of plants, animals and humans. In general, the higher the organic component of a soil (generally about 5%), the more life it can sustain. This component is variously referred to as ‘soil organic matter (SOM)’ or ‘soil organic carbon (SOC)’, as it comprises carbon-rich compounds.

We need healthy soils to eradicate hunger, mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis, reduce poverty, provide clean water, restore biodiversity, reduce pollution, provide livelihoods and reduce the harm from extreme weather.

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