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What is a Famine?

Updated on January 29, 2012

Death Toll

Thousands Daily
Thousands Daily | Source


You may think you know but do you really?

Forget that it is estimated that 17,000 children die daily from hunger related diseases. That is perhaps about 10 per minute. Put another way, in the time it has taken you to read to the end of this hub, 50 more children have died from diseases that could have been prevented. There is already enough food produced to feed everybody on the planet, much of it though is wasted.

This though is not a famine. It is just an everyday fact of life in the world that we have helped to create.

A famine in an area will usually follow years of drought in that area. The drought causes shortages in food to be grown. The areas affected are usually under developed countries, often the droughts assist in keeping the country under developed. However because of a lack of funds, these countries often cannot stockpile food in order to be able to help their people in their times of need.

United Nations

Many countries do assist areas that have been designated as being suffering from a famine.

The trouble is that it is not just a matter of finding and giving the food, the biggest problem is usually transportation. The cost and logistics involved in getting the food to the area is just one of the problems. It is often just as big a task to distribute the food within the area.

As you can imagine, all of this could take time. All this time though, people are dying. In the time all this takes to organize, thousands have died who perhaps no need to have.

The reason for this being: that countries will usually, only start to respond once the United Nations have declared, that the area is officially subject to a famine.

For the United Nations to formally declare an area being subject to famine, it first has to confirm that more people than is usual have died from hunger related diseases.


Some Areas of the Sahel Region
Some Areas of the Sahel Region | Source

Now is the Time

Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations Organization Special Representative on the Right to Food has said that the Sahel region of Africa is now undergoing food shortages due to years of drought. This region consists of about 9 million people, 6 million in Niger, 2.9 million in Mali and .5 million in Mauritania.

The ingredients for a famine are there now and hundreds of thousands will probably die. Why can aid not now be started instead of waiting for thousands more to die before the United Nations formally declare a famine.

The food is available today. The cost of transport today will be little different from a couple of months from now. The only difference is that by acting now many thousands of lives may be saved.

The United Nations on the whole does a good job but in cases like this, is it too much constrained by red tape?

I know that often, for a country to be allowed to operate its manpower and resources in an area legally, a UN blessing has to have been given. Surely though in cases like this short cuts in the red tape can be found or perhaps a different definition of famine can be prescribed.

The conditions to create a famine will always occur but the famine itself could be avoided, if only we had the resolve.


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    • somethgblue profile image

      somethgblue 6 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

      And yet again a very necessary article, 100,000 people a day starve to death. The pain of that kind of death is horrible.

      Consider that cows in America eat better in their short life spans, than 2/3 rds of the human population of the world. If Amerca stopped feeding their cows every man, woman and child in the entire world could be fed.