Causes effects and solutions of famine

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1st Jan 1970 History Reference this

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This research paper utilizes the main causes of famine, as being the poor governmental choices and civil wars that once led to famine in the past, and the effects that natural disasters like droughts has on increasing the speed rate that famine spreads in. It also deals with consequences of each of these causes leading us to the effects of famine, being anemia and low fertility rates. In addition to that, the characteristics of the regions famine has occurred in and why do some regions still suffer from famine and how some countries like India survived and beat famine in the solutions to stop and limit famine in the world.

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Famine nowadays is a serious threat to the existence of humans in many parts of the world. As most of us have seen on many TV news stations these populations decrease and many people in these regions die as a result of famine, hunger, and diseases accompanied by famine. We chose this subject “FAMINE, causes, effects, and solutions” for many reasons. Mainly for our lack of knowledge about the subject and the effects it can have on a specific country, we also chose this subject to search for solutions in the end of this report. In this report, we examined the causes of famine, the illness effects it has on sufferers, and solutions. Giving examples about each of these subtitles from past countries that had famine and countries that are currently suffer from famine.


What is famine

Famine is defined as an extreme shortage amount of food in a land. Its spread in many regions around the world, and can affect all living organisms, including humans, and even animals.

Causes of famine

Famine can be caused by many different reasons, some, like floods, droughts, and earthquakes are natural, and others, like lack of food and shortage in food distribution to specific parts of a region, humans are responsible for.

Famine has managed to spread around many parts of the world, from Ireland to Sudan to Afghanistan and Ethiopia, and at different times. For every time famine stroke a region it would be as a result of many causes, these causes differ from a period of time to another, and from a place to another. The main causes of famine as we see it are government policies, natural disasters, and malnutrition.

Political issues , Government policies, and Civil Wars

Specific governments around the world have put policies that unintentionally caused famine to spread in their regions, and civil wars has led many countries, like Sudan, to experience hunger. Bad government policies have once led China to one of the greatest famine in history, when Mao Zedong has planned to improve China’s industry and agriculture.

In order for this to happen, China was reformed into communes. Chinese citizens have worked for the commune and everything they had was owned by their commune. Workers were assigned to do work they were not capable of doing. A year later, machinery broke down, workers were injured, and buildings fell down because the steal produced and used in the buildings was week. Soon enough hunger was spread all over china, around 9 million died from starvation in 1960, and other millions of Chinese workers suffered illness for the lack of food. This plan which led china to famine was called the Great Leap Forward.

Similarly, unwise government policies has led North Korea to experience famine in the mid-1990s, and Zimbabwe in the early-2000s. In the early 1970s and 1980s,both Ethiopia and Sudan has suffered from famine due to their dictatorship governments, as food was shipped from Wollo in Ethiopia to its capital city in order to be sold with higher prices, Which led famine to occur in Wollo.

Then again, In the 1950s, china’s resources depended greatly on government actions, as it was the government’s responsibility to distribute food among provinces equally. As well as it is their responsibility to provide education and proper health care during the famine, with more educatied people there are, the healthier their choices might be, as that might have decreased the resultant death rates in the Chinese famine. (P24)

Due to unequal distribution of food, as governments usually prefer supplying urban residents over rural residents, The food accessibility was more devastating in the rural areas, which also led the severity of famine to vary from a region to another, as what happened to china in the 1950s.

Natural disasters.

Many natural disasters tend to hit countries and reduce the carrying capacity of the region sharply but temporarily(also 2). The most common natural disasters that encouraged famine to arise are droughts, earthquakes, and floods.

In 1845 to 1850, plague of fungi caused the large population of Ireland to drop down sharply, resulting in 500,000 deaths.

In east India, 1742 to 1747, drought had hit the land causing a famine with an unknown and huge numbers of deaths to occur.

Later, in 1915, famine took place in Tambora, Sumbawa due to Volcano eruptions, causing 82 thousand people to die. Bangladesh, 1991, 250 thousand deaths due to famine resulted by cyclone and floods. 50 thousand people died out of famine in 1991, Sudan when Epidemic of Meningitis has spread. The chart below shows the deaths occurring in each of those countries as a result of natural-disaster caused famine.


Malnutrition has caused people to experience severe famines, in regions where there is only access to contaminated water and food. The great famine in 1845,Ireland was mainly caused by potato blight, about a million people died, and one more million people left Ireland during that period of time.(1)

Effects of famine (illness effects)

Famine is always accompanied by many illnesses, since in famine there is rarely any food enough for the residents of suffering lands. In many developing countries, parents treat boys and girls differently, especially when exogenous shocks come. During famine, when food isn’t available, parents might choose to satisfy boys’ needs first, however this isn’t accurate, as all famine records proved that death rates increase in males more than females. Although, disorders in the distribution of health care causes many illness affects in both genders, and also increases mortality.

lower fertility

The first side effect of famine is lower fertility rates. The reason why Famine results in decreasing fertility rates is that poor families during famine delay having children, concerned that they wouldn’t have enough food and all the required and basic needs for a child to grow healthily, Which eventually drops the fertility rate magnificently during famine years. However this does not apply for the children born in the beginning of the famine, because their mothers were pregnant before the famine stroke. That explains why at the beginning of the famine some women continue to give birth. As what happened in the Chinese famine.

According to Peng 1987, China, total fertility up to age 39 is about 5.6 births per woman in pre-famine years, but it drops to its lowest level, 3.06, in 1961. (3)

Yet after famine is over, the birth rates increase sharply to opposite Thomas Malthus predictions which suggests that famine decreases the population size. The mortality in China in 1958 to 1961, and Ethiopia in 1983 to 1985, Bengal in 1943 was all restored again by a growing population after several years after the famine ended.


According to papers studying long term effects of China’ 1959-1961 famine by Chen and Zhou in the Chinese famine, data shows that people that were exposed to the 1959-61 famine have lower height, less income, and less labor supply. In another paper done by Luo, Mu and Zhang Famine has lead to a decrease in one’s height, weight, essencial work supplies, head circumference, and educational skills and achievements. Which are all factors that results by anemia that happened due to famine

It is also assumed that famine alters health distribution among new borns and causes anemia, and there is no doubt that famine influences infant’s health state on a negative scale, as this new born isn’t provided with enough nutrition during the famine years.

A strange fact about anemia and famine is that lack of food and poor quality of water that cause people to have anemia tend to effect men more than women. It is observed that in all famine records most people that die as a result of anemia or contaminated water and food are males, even in regions that normal males have higher life expectancies, as in Pakistan or India. Reasons might be that females are usually more flexible than males, and are more capable at finding and processing raw food.

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Areas famine is spread in

Features and characteristics of areas famine is spread in

Usually famine spreads among developing countries, where they lack good governmental decision, Regions with inhabitants that still use hunting and gathering techniques, regions that lack pure or processed water, and regions that continuously suffer from bad weather conditions, floods, droughts, and heavy rainfall.

Most famines are spread in areas where one or more of these factors apply to. In Ethiopia for example inhabitants rely on themselves to support each other. And still tend to use old and primitive machinery in agriculture.

But why do some countries like Somalia have been living in famine for along time and other cities has managed to successfully survive and overcome famine just fine? When bad conditions hit those countries, rich countries like Arizona that were experiencing floods and droughts , import all their main needs and food from other countries. Even with their lack of agriculture.

The total lack of agriculture in an economically strong area does not cause famine; Arizona and other wealthy regions import the vast majority of their food, since such regions produce sufficient economic goods for trade.” (2)

Famine in Africa

Many parts of the 3rd world are suffering from famine and diseases accompanied by lack of food and contaminated water. Swaziland, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola, Ethiopia, and many other countries examining famine are all located in Africa alone.

A common case for famine in Africa is Ethiopia, for it suffers from famine through many repeated periods of time. The world food programme and government policies have distributed food aids to millions of people in Ethiopia. As their situation is about to get worse with the continues warnings of droughts and starvation. The dry and hot weather barely supports plants and crops. Additionally, animals have also starved for the lack of Grazing land.

Haile Salassie, who was Ethiopia’s regent since 1916, was never supported by the northern states of Ethiopia. These provinces were demanding to be independent; therefore, they were against the government. Selassie had no problems keeping his country suffering from famine, as he thought that disabling his country to reach food was a good weapon for him to win this war. Which again confirms that bad governmental policies and civil wars increases the threat of famine, or at least worsening the severity of current famines.

Moritania is another country facing famine in Africa, in the west of the continent. They were depending on sorghum and maize crops for their food. But the lack of rain prohibited the use of land and harvesting. Moritania constantly suffers from droughts. World Vision, which runs feeding centers in the country, is reporting severe malnutrition in many areas in Moritania.

Famine in south Africa

South Africa is the most region in Africa that has many countries stacked next to each other and suffer from famine. Swaziland, Lesotho, Zimbabwe are located in the far south and experience harsh famine. Swaziland usually imports crops from southern countries in Africa. This year they need to import more than 100,000 tones of cereal to survive famine.

Lestho has experienced recently frost, heavy rainfall, hailstorms, and tornadoes for the second year. All these disasters lower the carrying capacity of the land, therefore results in less farming and agriculture causing the famine to spread at a higher rate.

Almost two thirds of Swaziland’s population lives on below the poverty line. The prices of crops and wheat have been rising in all of these South African countries and the only benefiters from these famines are the wealthy landowners in the south-eastern provinces. A recent report has warned that the number of hungry children in Africa could increase by 3.3 million by 2025 unless politicians and governments change their plans.

Solutions to reduce the effects of famine

How to prevent famine

Famine can be avoided by following simple procedures, however political and governmental policies are the main aspects that would determine having famine or not, as unwise decision might repeat the incidence of the Great leap Forward and korea in the mid 1900s.

The main skills inhabitants of the land should know are how to hunt for food if they’re living in regions where they depend mainly on animals. Growing, trapping, and storing food are also basic skills residents should consider knowing in order for them to survive and prevent famine from spreading. If living in the wild or an undeveloped region, residents should own guns, bows, baits and traps, Farmers should be trained to cultivate their lands on a scientific basis and having developed machinery. Closer solutions to our reality might be storing food, and storing dry foods that doesn’t need refrigerators.

Reducing famine

Many actions should be taken in order for famine to reduce to reach its lowest dangerous state. The steps are simple, yet people still have problems reducing famine’s effects.

Many Aid groups have taken charge of providing famine suffering countries with the needed vitamins and minerals within micronutrients. They’ve also offered giving money to residents to fill their needs with and paying local farmers rather than importing foods and supplies from foreign countries.

Procedures to beat famine involves the use of modern technologies since 70% of 3rd world famine countries rely on agriculture, the use of fertilizers, irrigation, financially supporting farmers, developing institutions, democracy, those procedures allowed India and developed countries to beat famine, as Agricultural experts from Denmark and India gathering in Copenhagen at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University considered long term solutions.

Using modern science, genetic engineering in order to stop pest attacks and kill insects and destroy animal diseases, and fix low yields were also some solutions recommended by Prof Pinstrup-Andersen, he also adds that developing countries should invest in infrastructure, education, improvements of health care and domestic markets, and these things can easily be done with the help of developed countries and cooperation between each other in science in order to help the poor countries.

According to Mitra: “India adopted the first generation of Green Revolution technologies in the late 1960s, directly after its last famine (of 1965-66) which killed half a million people. This is best contrasted with China, whose policies induced the largest man-made famine in history during the same time period, killing tens of millions of people. Other countries, including the famine-ravaged states in Africa, would do well to follow India’s example”. (4)

Summary and conclution

To sum up, Famine is a serious and dangerous state that a region can experience, and should be avoided when a country is threatened to have famine, either from natural resources or any other cause. In this research we found out that famine is caused by severe natural disasters and gave examples of Sudan, India Ireland as countries that had famine due to natural disasters, and China and Ireland having famine as a result of governmental issues. Then we mentioned the facts that prove famine lowers fertility rates as what happened earlier and china, then about the similarities that famine suffering countries share and we gave information about countries in Africa as an example of countries suffering currently at this time. Finally we suggested some solutions and brought up India’s situation when it survived and passed its Famine years. We suggest that every country should be helped out during its famine with exporting foods and goods, but the more effective solution is by adopting these countries to agriculture and using more developed machinery and solving their governmental problems.

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