What is famine?
The Food and Agricultural Orgaisation (FAO of the UN inists that there is sufficient food for everyone in the world. Food is not in short supply – globally, we produce enough to feed everyone 2,700 calories per day. However, an estimated 30 million people die every year from starvation and a further 800 million suffer from chronic malnutrition. Some of these people live in countries that export food products to the developed world.
Malnutrition is defined as a condition resulting from some form of dietary deificiency. This may be bacasue te quantity of food, measured in calories per day, is too low or bacuse certain important nutirents are absent. Malnutrition weakens immunty and makes people more vulnerable to diseases. It may also lead to deficiency diseases such as beriberi or aneamia. Some authorities refer to the condition that results from consuming too little food over a period of time as undernourishment.
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Famine: the causes
Most famines result from a combination of natural events and human mismanagement. Some authorities refer to famine as decline in the acces to food, rather than to there not being enough food.
Famines are not always widespread. They can be localised and can affect only one group or social class.
In areas affected by famine, it is not uncommon to see food available in markets and some agricultural produce being exported.
The decline in food availibilty is said to be the result of a deterioration in the entitlements of certain sectors of society. Poorer people have limited access to food as a consequence of weaker purchasing power and bargaining powers. They have low status, menial occupations and limited land ownership.
· A population increase greater than the rate of crop (food) production
· A rapid rise in the price of foodstuffs and/or animals
Famine: the solutions
Famine relief is a short-term aid that takes the form of distributing food. It is usually carried out by a combination of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs e.g. Oxfam) and governments. Much of this aid is temporary in nature. It is usually given with caution becuase it could result in overdependence by the receiving country and migh damage the local agricultural economy.
Issues related to famaine relief include:
· The cost of providing relief
· Disaster fatigue – too many disasters leaves the public apathetic to other people’s problems
· The type of food provided
· Infrastructure to deliver the aid
· Coordination between aid agencies and governments
· Targeting aid – the aid gets to the right people in time
The long-term response involves helping people to develop more
productive system of faring in order to prevent another famine. Such aid could
· Increased use of fertilisers and new technologies such as high-yielding varieties of seeds
· Improvements to systems to ensure that produce gets to markets more
· Easing international trade and cancelling national debts