Famine is a situation in which the population of a geographic area or only a portion of this population, lack of food. The state of undernourishment is reached at least 1,200 calories per day (the normal average is 2,400 calories per person) and may, if prolonged, cause death.


The word famine is attested in 1170 and is a derivative of hunger.

The term scarcity is used to a shortage less serious. This term should not be confused when used to describe a person suffering of anorexia which required a famine when food is available.


Other events may have a more or less directly on the emergence of a state of famine.

Natural causes like climate change, often drought, but also natural disasters or plant diseases (such as late blight of potato in Ireland in the nineteenth century) can lead to starvation. Thanks to technological advances in agriculture, such starvation is eliminated in many parts of the world.

Man is also one of the causes of famines throughout the war (as during the Russian Civil War), social instability or even the willingness policy.

The destabilization of the market for food, such as the distribution of humanitarian aid outside the context of emergency or removal of customs barriers, can also lead to the collapse of the agriculture and local foster the emergence of 'famine.

Changes in these weather and human factors explain the spatio-temporal areas affected by hunger

In the contemporary period, many NGOs or people like Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate, developed the idea that the famine has become rather a problem of food distribution and poverty, as overall lack of food The green revolution with the genetic improvement of plants could reduce the crisis countries with the greatest population explosion as the India and Africa the twentieth century, but access to food is not equal for all . And a lot of uneaten food is destroyed annually. Similarly, rats, mice and some insects destroy a large quantity of poorly stored food in some countries. This approach to evolution of contemporary production and consumption of food items was partly invalidated by the global food crisis of 2007-2008.




Victims of the Russian famine of 1921

Famine is an old problem: the Bible makes reference to as one of Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

In the past, the weapon of famine is often used in the siege of cities for the surrender without a fight (as in the siege of Alesia). The so-called policy of scorched earth uses the same way famine purposes defensive.

Major famine

In ancient Egypt famines are primarily caused by too low or high flood of the Nile.

The famines in the Middle Ages occur when crops are poor, especially during the welding. The weather factor is exacerbated by the war and the devastating passage of soldiers in the field (as during the Hundred Years War). The poor are always the most affected. Cities organize the supply of wheat, sometimes come from far and high cost. Hunger makes the body weaker deal with epidemics. The scholar Raoul Glaber left a written account of the famine that occurred in Burgundy to 1033. Since starvation is a recurring problem. Westerners living in "fear of hunger" by the expresssion of Jacques Le Goff But in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, major famines are rare

The great famine of 1693-1694 is due to a spring and summer too wet in 1692, followed in 1693 with a very poor harvest, causing malnutrition that favors epidemics such as typhus. It occurs on a background of war of the League of Augsburg, rehabilitation of the size and creation, in 1695, a new tax, the capitation. France, which then had 20 million inhabitants, 1,300,000 were killed in addition to the normal mortality. The historian François Lebrun, a professor at Rennes II believes that even the French population has increased of 22.25 at 20,75 million in two years, between 1692 and 1694, a total of one million and half dead .

The famine Irish potato between 1845 and 1851 is between 750 000 and one million deaths, one third of the population pushing two million Irish to emigrate to Great Britain, the United States, in Canada, in Australia and New Zealand.

The Russian famine of 1921 was approximately 5 million deaths, mainly in the Volga-Urals region.

The Soviet famine of 1932-33 was between 6 and 8 million deaths throughout the USSR. Part of the famine that took place in Ukraine is also known as Holodomor (extermination by hunger ") since the late 1980s. Controversially the Ukrainian Parliament passed the qualification of genocide for the Holodomor on 28 November 2006

Famine in Ethiopia (1888-1892)

Recent Famines


Famine in Somalia, a health crisis as economic impacts on the health of inhabitants.
the Bengal famine of 1943: an estimated one million and a half to three million deaths
in Tibet the implementation of land reform and collectivization of land, from 1954 have the positive effect expected by the Communists, but to cause a significant decline in production for both culture for livestock, leading to famine among farmers and nomadic Tibetan is the first famine in Tibet (see Petition 70 000 characters)
from 1959 to 1961 in China, the Great Leap Forward was estimated between 20 and 30 million casualties.
in North Korea since the mid 1990s: one in two million deaths
from 1967 to 1970 in Biafra (Nigeria), over 1 million deaths;
Lesotho (1983-1985)
1984, famine in Ethiopia, more than 1 million deaths
2004, Darfur in Sudan
2005, Niger. Malnutrition has reached over 3, 5 million people, including 800 000 children. Over 100 000 people died

In 2005 according to the FAO about 16 000 children worldwide die daily from diseases related to hunger and malnutrition.

organizations fight against famine
The FAO (UN Food and Agriculture)
The World Food Program
The NGOs

Global warming
2009. According to recent estimates by David Battisti (University of Washington, Seattle) and Rosamond Naylor (Stanford University), the food security of 3 billion people would be threatened by 2100. Based on 23 climate models, the vast majority of the world will experience scorching summer temperatures exceeding the previous record (1900, 2006). In temperate climates, temperatures experienced in 2003 could become the norm. In 2003, an excess temperature of 3.6 ° C above the seasonal average temperatures have actually decreased crop yields by 30% for maize, 21% for wheat and 25% for fruits.

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