Overview: Famine

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.
Read more

Related video talks

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*Daniel Maxwell, Henry J. Leir Professor in Food Security, Friedman School of Nutrition, Tufts University

57. Gandhi: Justice, Technology
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54. Venezuela
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51. Biodiversity and Food
• Harriet Friedmann, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of Toronto

45: Gandhian Sustainable Development Goals
• Jill Carr-Harris co- leader of the Jai Japal march from India to Geneva, starting in October 2020.
* Rajagopal, co- leader of the Jai Japal march from India to Geneva, starting in October 2020.

37. The War in Yemen
• Qais Ghanem, Retired professor of medicine, Ottawa University
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22. Famine
• Alex deWaal, Executive Director, World Peace Foundation

13. Yemen
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6. Famine and Food Security
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General reference sources

Dolly, Justin. 2017. “The Cyber Cold War: The Silent, but Persistent Threat to Nation States.” ITPro Portal. April 19, 2017. https://www.itproportal.com/features/the-cyber-cold-war-the-silent-but-persistent-threat-to-nation-states/.
Hopma, Justa. 2017. “Famine Isn’t Just a Result of Conflict—It’s a Cause.” Newsweek, January 25, 2017. www.newsweek.com/food-insecurity-conflict-sudan-famine-548033.
Kostigen, Thomas M. 2015. “Extreme Weather to Cause Extreme Food Shortages, Task Force Finds.” USA Today, August 22, 2015. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/08/21/extreme-weather-cause-extreme-food-shortages-task-force-finds/32104685/.
Loria, Kevin. 2017. “Even a ‘Limited’ Nuclear War Could Trigger Cruel Nuclear Winters and Global Famine.” Business Insider, August 10, 2017. http://www.businessinsider.com/nuclear-explosions-earth-atmosphere-temperature-2017-8.
Mekonnen, Meedan. 2016. “Drought, Famine, and Conflict: A Case from the Horn of Africa.” Beyond Intractibility. September 2016. https://www.beyondintractability.org/casestudy/mekonnen-drought.
O’ Connell, Simon. 2017. “The True Cause of Hunger and Famine? War and Weak Governance.” World Economic Forum. April 28, 2017. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/04/conflict-and-famine-time-for-honesty/.

Author: Yusur al Bahrani

17 thoughts on “Overview: Famine

  1. FEED A BEE!
    You don’t have to be a tree hugger to respect the environment that you live in.
    For two million years, before the agricultural revolution, humans foraged the land and brought thousands of species of animals to extinction.
    We can say that millions of years ago we didn’t know better, but now we do.
    Bees are pollinators, and without them, we wouldn’t be alive. They are responsible for feeding 90% of the world’s population.
    David Attenborough, the voice behind The Blue Planet and Planet Earth, warns “if bees were to disappear from the face of the Earth, humans would have just four years to live.”
    That may become a reality at the rate things are going.
    In a heartfelt Instagram post, the 92-year-old documentary maker shared that “in the last five years, the bee population has dropped by 1/3.”
    There is a way to make a difference.
    David Attenborough says by leaving a teaspoon of sugar and water in your garden or lawn, you can help to re-hydrate them when they’re tired.
    “This time of year bees can often look like they are dying or dead, however, they’re far from it. Bees can become tired and they simply don’t have enough energy to return to the hive which can often result in being swept away. If you find a tired bee in your home, a simple solution of sugar and water will help revive an exhausted bee. Simply mix two tablespoons of white, granulated sugar with one tablespoon of water, and place on a spoon for the bee to reach.”

  2. Jean Dreze, “Food Security Act: How are India’s Poorest States faring?”
    A survey of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) was conducted during 1-10 June 2016 by student volunteers in six of India’s poorest states: Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal. As expected, Chhattisgarh emerged as the leading state in food security matters. Chhattisgarh enacted its own Food Security Act in December 2012, and implemented it without delay. PDS distribution is far from regular and leakages remain high. In Bihar, especially, many households reported that they had to skip an entire month’s PDS ration from time to time as corrupt dealers siphoned it off.
    It is important to mention that even in Bihar and Jharkhand, the PDS is improving.

  3. Hilal Elver. @HilalElver
    ”2018: Right to food in the context of natural disasters (A/HRC/37/61)”
    Using country-specific examples, the Special Rapporteur contextualizes the direct and indirect impacts of natural disasters on the right to food and people’s livelihoods. This report addresses how disasters contribute to hunger and recommends solutions for reducing human rights violations and environmental degradation. This report also underlines the importance of achieving a convergence between emergency food aid, food assistance and development cooperation in order to ensure the full realization of the right to food.

  4. Hilal Elver SR Food. @HilalElver
    Please join us and take part the discussion on future of food systems, challenges and opportunities at University of Sydney 2019 Food Governance Conference. #Foodgovernance2019


    Belinda Reeve

    Tomorrow is the absolutely last day to submit an abstract to the 2019 Food Governance Conference. We’ve already got a fantastic range of abstracts from researchers around the world, and we hope to add yours too! (link: https://bit.ly/2Qrk11Y) bit.ly/2Qrk11Y #Foodgovernance2019

    Food Governance Conference 2019

    The George Institute for Global Health and 8 others

  5. Save our Food. Free the Seed.”
    just 50 years ago, some 1,000 small and family-owned seed companies were producing and distributing seeds in the United States; by 2009, there were fewer than 100. Thanks to a series of mergers and acquisitions over the last few years, four multinational agrochemical firms — Corteva, ChemChina, Bayer and BASF — now control over 60 percent of global seed sales.


  6. Hilal Elver, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has regular website to report her findings. One is her recommendation, along with the World Peace Foundation, for a global convention that gives States and the international community clear legal mandates to prevent famine and protect people’s right to adequate food, among other recommendations to States.
    “How Can International Law Advance the Prevention, Prohibition and Accountability for Mass Starvation?”


  7. Gabriela Vivacqua share from World Food Programme, June 14, 2019
    “”South Sudanese facing famine in all but name, warns UN food agency.”
    Some seven million people – face acute food shortages, while more than 20,000 are close to famine, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned. According to Friday’s food insecurity report, an estimated 21,000 South Sudanese will likely face a “catastrophic lack of food access” by the end of July, in the middle of the rainy season.
    More than 1.8 million are set to endure “emergency” food shortages, while five million are expected to be in “crisis”. Today, WFP assists more than 2.7 million people in South Sudan, but it plans to scale up aid to 5.1 million by December, to meet seasonal needs, using a combination of food and cash distributions.
    For the first time in many years, WFP has also prepositioned 173,000 tonnes of food in some 60 areas ahead of the rainy season; some 66,000 tonnes more than at the same point in 2018.

  8. Tomson Phiri shared in the World Food Programme Insight:
    “The Grain that Binds.”

    Sudan used to be one big country. In 2011 it split into two. South Sudan, the newly independent state, was born. But Sudan and South Sudan share more than a name. Take the simple grain farmed in the north and exported to its southern neighbour, for example. It is cementing an age-old relationship.
    Humanitarian ties
    In 2014 Khartoum and the South’s capital, Juba, signed a treaty to open transport-corridors for food supplies to reach the more vulnerable South Sudanese by both road and through the River Nile which connects the two vast countries. Along with the much-needed relief supplies to millions in need in South Sudan, the corridors, provide smallholder farmers with much-needed business during what are financially hard times.
    Following a reasonably good 2018 harvest, WFP purchased 110,000mt of sorghum from the Strategic Grain Reserve of Sudan. More than half of the sorghum was shipped to South Sudan. This year, WFP is due to purchase a further 120,000 metric tons of sorghum to support its activities in both Sudan and South Sudan.


  9. Arthur Neslen shared this:
    “Climate change ‘cause of most under-reported humanitarian rises,”
    The Guardian, Feb 21, 2019.
    Climate change was responsible for the majority of under-reported humanitarian disasters last year, according to analysis of more than a million online news stories.
    Whole populations were affected by food crises in countries ravaged by by drought and hurricanes such as Ethiopia and Haiti, yet neither crisis generated more than 1,000 global news stories each. Around the world, extreme weather events claimed about 5,000 lives in 2018, and left almost 29 million people in need of humanitarian aid and emergency assistance.

  10. From World Food Program Annabel Symington March 2019
    U.N. News report.
    “Ten million Yemenis ‘one step away from famine’, UN food relief agency calls for ‘unhindered access’ to frontline regions.”
    With Yemen now in its fifth year of conflict between pro-Government forces and Houthi rebels, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is calling for “unhindered access” to the most desperate areas in the frontline regions.
    In the last six months, the number of people displaced by violence has increased sharply from 203,000 to around 420,000. WFP is scaling up this year to reach 12 million people each month; a 50 per cent increase over its 2018 targets, including eight million with food rations; 2.4 with commodity vouchers and, eventually, 1.6 million with cash assistance.
    WFP’s ongoing rapid-response food rations have been able to support over 5,000 families and Hajjah governorate has around 200 food distribution points covering 1.5 million people.

  11. Emma Bryce posted:
    “ $10 billion worth of fish annually comes from a place other than where it was caught.”

    Ninety percent of the world’s fish are caught within countries’ exclusive economic zones (EEZs), and so countries tend to manage fisheries along these national boundaries. Yet, not much is known about where these fish originate from. So the researchers on the new Science study developed a particle-tracking system to mimic the movement of fish larvae from over 700 commercially-fished species, based on knowledge about the location of their spawning grounds in different EEZs around the world. Then they simulated seasonal ocean currents to study the movement of these eggs between 249 global EEZs.
    This revealed that most countries depend on the provision of larvae from other parts of the world to prop up their fisheries—and this ‘donated’ fish benefits economies to the tune of several billion dollars annually.
    Countries in the Caribbean, West Africa, Northern Europe, and Oceania were found to be most vulnerable: essentially, a large degree of their economic wellbeing and food security is dependent on the maintenance of spawning grounds that other nations have under their care.
    When fisheries are mismanaged or breeding grounds are not protected, it could affect food security half a world away,” the researchers say.


  12. einstein International Center, Tufts University, posts this reference to a new publication by Alex Humphrey, Vaidehi Krihnan, and Roxani Krystalli, ‘The currency of connections: Why local support systems are integral to helping people recover in South Sudan,”

    This report describes variations in households’ social connectedness and their related abilities to benefit from local support systems. Additionally, it considers the different obligations that households and economic actors have to support others in their communities and whether such support is reciprocal.


  13. Madan Kumar | TNN | Updated: Jun 14, 2019 Patna News – Times of India
    Right to Food Campaign, India

    “Bihar first state to launch universal old-age pension scheme.”
    The universal pension scheme in Bihar promises every person of the age 60 and above, irrespective of financial, family, or caste status, will get Rs.400 per month in her/his bank account directly.


  14. Feinstein International Center, Tufts University, posts this analysis on the effects of foreign aid on rebel governance in Syria, by Allison Carnegie, Kimberly Howe, Adam Lichtenheld, and Dipali Mukhopadhyay.

    “The Effects of Foreign Aid on Rebel Governance: Evidence from a Large-Scale U.S. Aid Program in Syria”
    A summary of this work: “Most research underscores the inefficacy of foreign aid as an instrument for influencing local perceptions of governance in countries affected by conflict. In contrast, we argue that aid can improve public perceptions of governing institutions during civil wars when those institutions arise from popular uprisings against authoritarian regimes. To evaluate our theory, we analyze new perceptions-based data, both quantitative and qualitative, which was collected from residents of 27 opposition-held communities inside Syria from 2014 to 2016. We find a positive statistical relationship between aid and perceptions of local institutions, but only when the populace does not believe the institutions were imposed by an outside actor. These results are further supported by placebo tests and a case study of Raqqa City, in which we show that aid boosted citizens’ views of the local councils until ISIS took over.”


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