Famine – Dying of Hunger
Throughout history, people have suffered devastating periods of hunger, called famines. These are caused by drought, war or bad government decisions.
In March, South Sudan was declared the site of the world’s first famine in six years. It is affecting about 100,000 people. Here is an exploration of this term.
“Famine is not a word that we use lightly,” said Erminio Sacco. He is a food expert who works for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Since 2007 the term has been used according to a scientific system. It is agreed upon by different groups around the world. The system is called the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) scale.
The IPC scale says that three things must happen for something to be called a famine. First, at least 20 percent of the people in an area must have very limited access to food. Second, at least 30 percent of people must not have enough nutrition and have had serious weight loss. Third, at least 2 out of every 10,000 people must be dying each day. This defines famine clearly. It prevents the term from being misused by political leaders for the wrong reasons.
Over the past 100 years, famines have hit China, the Soviet Union, Iran and Cambodia. They are often the result of human actions. Europe suffered several famines during the 1300s in the Middle Ages. Europe’s most recent famines were during World War I and II, when parts of Germany, Poland and the Netherlands were left starving. They were cut off from food by their enemy’s military.
In Africa, there have been several famines over the last 50 years. There were famines in Nigeria in the 1970s and in Ethiopia from 1983 to 1985. This focused a new kind of attention on the suffering, as many famous people raised money to bring food and medicine to those areas. The last famine in the world was in Somalia in 2011. It killed about 260,000 people.
South Sudan is experiencing famine. The United Nations has warned that Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen are at risk as well. This could affect more than 20 million people. One thing these places all share are a long conflict, like a war. These conflicts affect access to food, farming and trade. They also prevent these areas from getting help from other countries.
Of the four famine warnings, only the one in Somalia is caused by drought. The other three are because of conflicts.
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