What is a famine?

Posted July 20th, 2011 at 10:10 am (UTC-5)
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Definition of Famine:

The word famine is a term that is not used lightly by humanitarian organizations. The United Nations describes a crisis as a famine only when the following conditions are met:

– Malnutrition rates exceed 30 percent

– More than two people per 10,000 people are dying each day

– Severe lack of food access for large populations

Current Famine:

Almost half of Somalia's population, 3.7 million people, are affected by the current crisis with malnutrition rates in southern Somalia the highest in the world, surpassing 50 per cent in some areas. The United Nations says it is likely that tens of thousands have already have died, the majority of those being children.

The drought that has led to the current famine in parts of Somalia has also affected people in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Previous Famines in the Horn of Africa:

Somalia 1991-1992

Somalia experienced a famine from 1991 to 1992 that killed an estimated 300,000 people. A prolonged drought was aggravated by militia leaders who seized humanitarian aid and sold it in Mogadishu's markets. In December of 1992, the United States led a military intervention in an attempt to remove the militia leaders and end the famine.

Ethiopia 1984-1985

This catastrophic famine killed an estimated one million Ethiopians. At the time of the famine, Ethiopia was fighting a civil war and outside nations were initially reluctant to get involved with providing food aid. However, television pictures of the famine shocked the world, and charity events, including several high-profile recordings and concerts, were organized to raise money for the victims.

Ethiopia 1974

This famine is believed to have claimed the lives of several hundred thousand people. The famine helped to destabilize the government of Emperor Haile Selassie, who was soon after removed from power in a coup.