Famine is most prevalently defined as “acute starvation associated with a sharp increase in mortality. (www.africana.com) This, as far as one can see, direct definition, however, avoids the much more complicated question of why people reach the point of starvation. Conflicting to popular media coverage of the issue, famine in Africa is not a brief event, nor an immediate, unavoidable outcome of drought or other climatic misfortunes. Rather, research on the history of famine shows that several factors typically contribute to a society’s or region’s vulnerability to starvation, and that some of the causes of famine have changed substantially over the past century. Famine is an entity in which destroys thousands of lives on a daily basis, in the paragraphs to follow the complete definition of famine will be addressed, up to and including how many people are at risk and also what countries are most greatly affected by famine. The root causes of famine in Africa will also be addressed, followed by possible solutions to the famine crisis Africa has been, and currently is experiencing.
The spread of famine in Africa now threatens well over 30 million people and is overwhelming the capacity of relief agencies to address the problem. “There are estimated to be 600 million who do not have enough to eat. 400 million are actually starving. 2000 million suffer from malnutrition.”(1981, Poverty and Famines, Oxford: Clarendon press) These numbers are increasing by the minute and without assistance from the ever-hesitant developed world, Africa is doomed to a reoccurring endless cycle of famine, starvation and poverty.
“Famine can be defined as a temporary failure of food production or distribution systems in a particular region that leads to increased mortality due to starvation and diseases that result from lack of food.”
(Global Connections: Canadian and World Issues by: Bruce Clark & John Wallace)
What many would not know is that famine is not one subject in it-self, there are many contributors accumulating to the overall terminology.
One of the most commonly known contributing factors that seems to be supplying famine with even more drive than ever before is hunger and malnutrition. In order to be healthy and active, we must have food in adequate quantity, quality and variety to meet our energy and nutrient requirements. Without them, children cannot develop their potential to the fullest, and adults will experience difficulty in maintaining or expanding theirs. Malnutrition in the form of deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals continues to cause severe illness or death in thousands of people living in sub-Saharan Africa. In result, even mild forms of deficiencies can consequently hold a child back from their development and their ability to learn. Many of these consequences could possibly be alleviated by making sure adequate food supplies are widespread in variety and they also provide the right amount of essential vitamins and minerals. Starvation is an extreme form of hunger in which people suffer from a complete lack of energy and essential minerals. As the condition continues to worsen the body wastes away as tissue is perpetually consumed to provide protein and energy.
To put an end to the ever-evolving famine that Africa is facing doesn’t even singularly begin with making sure enough food is made and available to the people. However, that even growing enough food doesn’t guarantee that hunger and widespread famine would ever be eliminated. People need to be able to access nutritionally adequate food no matter what for a person to be able to lead a healthy life. The offering of everyone, through education of the problem, is extremely crucial to making sure the rights of the people in Africa to be free of famine that has stricken its economy for far too long is secure.
“Millions are at risk is nothing is done to help them. People are slowly running out of food. The drought destroyed crops last year and there are no imports. It’s only a matter of time before we see visible hunger on the streets.”
(Mercy Crops Food Program Manager Tom Ewert, from southern Africa, UN web sites.)
When discussing famine as a single subject one is prompted to inquire as to how many people are at risk of experiencing a genuine famine? More than seven million people are in immediate need of food assistance in southern Africa. (According to Mercy Crop workers in the area and the United Nations World Food Program, UN web sites) The amount of people in need of foreign aid has risen dramatically to a staggering 14.4 million, increased from May’s approximate 12.8 million, with credible fears of a famine outbreak. According to officials associated with the United Nations up to 15 million people on the Horn of Africa could possibly also be faced with serious famine conditions in the up coming months.
Famine is undoubtedly hitting Africa much more strongly than ever before. North of the equator the entire Sahel region is at risk of a severe famine outbreak. (1981, Poverty and Famines) Present famines are taking place in Liberia, Sudan and Somalia, the three main leading causes of famine in these places are: failure of rain, war and things such as “cash crops”(the export of crops instead of using the food produced for themselves) If you were to head south of the equator, you would find the main location of famine to be situated in sub-Saharan Africa. This is not the only continent affected by famine, all around the world, places like Liberia, Iraq, China, India, Albania and Bosnia have all be stricken with famine.
To pinpoint a specific place, the Sahel is continually facing famine as a result of usual droughts. This can and has been linked with Eli Nino events that happened in the Pacific.
During 1992 a serious drought had developed throughout southern Africa, affecting many countries, some as far as Kenya. It is estimated that 40 million people in that area were all facing extreme starvation during the month of September 1992. The effect was population increase and it can be supported by the prime example of Zimbabwe. At the beginning of the century their population was 400,000 and then skyrocketed to 11 million. This would obviously suggest that this much larger number could certainly not survive especially with the current drought.
The root causes of famine are many and somewhat complex in defining. The flow diagram attached will be of significant use in conveying that there is not just one cause of famine, wherever it may be affecting at the time. It’s an accumulation of drought, flooding, governmental mismanagement and economic collapse have all come together to bring about the current crisis. Existing, widespread malnutrition and the highest rates of HIV/AIDS infection in the entire world compound the severity and the state of famine stricken regions. Each of the nations experiencing famine is faced with their own disastrous specific ambient factors. (Rabb, T. (editors), Hunger and History, Cambridge University Press)
Because of AIDS farming skills have been lost, agricultural extension services have declined, rural livelihoods have disintegrated, productive capacity to work the land has dropped and household earnings are shrinking while the cost of caring for the ill skyrockets’ it added.
War causes people to move off of their own land and prevents planting. As well as the lack of rain is connected with destruction of forests and other climatic changes. All of this results in a lack of terraces preventing collection of water, therefore the lack of trees prevents the rain from sinking in and absorbing into the land. The cause of famine in Mozambique is entirely placed upon the war, which has driven its people off of their land; Liberia is operating under some of the same conditions, experiencing famine following a civil war that destroyed a great amount of their infrastructure. (World Encyclopedia Collection, Blessed Trinity Library) Iraq is facing famine following the destruction of power supplies during the Gulf war including a failure to plant crops in land where the Kurds have been driven from their villages. Famine in the former Soviet Union is said to be arising as the result of extreme disorganization of the food distribution and absence of commercial networks. Also if the communist government in China collapses, although privatization of agriculture has already happened, leading to land being lost to urban building and rice to cash crops. Consequently, China’s import of grains could destabilize the entire world’s food markets. In Europe, Bosnia is experiencing famine as a result of war, and the collapse of the Communist economies in Albania had produced famine alleviated by European surpluses. (www.ifpri.org/pubs/fps//fps.28htm)
“Famines can result from either natural causes (for example, a drought or serious plant disease that causes crop failure) or human causes (for example, a civil war)” (Global Connections: Canadian and World Issues by: Bruce Clark & John Wallce)
Land that was once used to grow food for the local people of a village had come to be used for growing crops that would be sent to a “mother” or “developed” country. So this means that farmers did have the natural resources to produce an adequate amount of food rich in both quality/quantity and in variety. But, because they had no other form of income as a result of their country descending measureless steps behind in terms of industrialization, these primary industry workers were forced to export their crops to developed countries. Crops varied widely from colony to colony though included goods such as coffee, tea, sugar, bananas, cacao, cotton and silk. The end result of this was that some areas that has been self-supporting in food then became dependent on imports.
It’s a distinct unarguable world issue that the food economy, even today, is unbalanced. Naturally, some parts of our world are much more productive than others, and one would imply that you could refer to it as the economic “food chain” So, still, we find ourselves plagued with the very same question we always have been, can the remaining funds of North America and Europe combined possibly be used to alleviate famine and hunger? Donating and/or selling items such as wheat or rice to Africa could evidently create a much stronger demand for imports. Meanwhile a good number of African countries already import a large amount of both wheat and bread, mainly because they cant grow it in their own land. The most obvious yet very controversial long term solution is to realize that there is a visible limit to the number of people a certain amount of land can sustain, the land can only support a certain amount of people before its natural resources begin to deteriorate forever. This particular idea especially proves to be true for many places like most of Australia and the Sahel where rainfall is uncertain and very scarce. The long-term solution definitely is something to think about mainly because many small islands have also adopted the very same idea. So, when thought about, couldn’t the entire world, in actuality, be thought of as a small island?
Long term security must bring must bring food production and consumption into balance, mainly because at some time the number of consumers must cease to increase.
One of the most recent solutions that have even been discussed in class has been foreign aid. The international debt crisis plays a large role in this situation. Mainly because in the 1970’s when banks were willing to provide loans with low but floating interest rates, developing countries jumped at the idea of receiving funds, not ever thinking of when or how they would ever pay them back. That’s exactly what happened, even today developing countries such as much of Africa is more than neck deep in millions of dollars worth of aid that has had no positive impact on its economy as a result of mismanagement of the funds. When a country is in as much debt as Africa it strongly prevents room for any type of human development because the crucial aspect of social services are largely cut back in order to attempt to even start paying back loans. Political responses to the issue are as follows: “Majority of the debt will never be paid back, The losses have already occurred. But it will not in any way free up any new funds to fight AIDS or poverty. History strongly suggests that requirements attached to forgiveness (for fighting poverty or consulting the poor) will have only a modest effect, however well-intended.”
(Grade 12 World Issues Notes provided by: Mr. Lou Maida)
In conclusion by understanding the complete definition of famine and all that it addresses, including causes and solutions, one can then use this information not only for his/her own good, but the good of all mankind. The specific way a lot of people tend to react to the pictures of famine in Africa and around the world is more times than not, the question of “what can I do to help?” Many, either televised or not, reports on the issue seem to prompt people to ease their concerns by donating money. Although giving money to a justifiable cause is a nice gesture, there are many more, meaningful and just as fulfilling, possibly more so, things you could do that would also add to your generous donation. A great start to this could be educating yourself and others on the issue on hand, finding out about the countries citizens and there past and present situations. When we eventually gain the essential knowledge of famine and hunger and why it happens, majority of us are prone to ask questions and have our specific opinions on the matter intelligently challenged. With a combination of all of these tools, we are definitely better equipped to bring about substantial changes that will ass to the continuous fight against famine and hunger worldwide. Africa use to, and remains to be a continent of much promise. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is committed to supplying Africans the support needed to strongly combat the enormous problem Africa is facing with many other organizations. North America and it’s extremely modest donations work to provide the full-spirited and hopeful citizens of Africa with everything they are deserving of: an education, employment, peace, financial stability, social justice in their courts, and a descent life complete with an established health care system.
“There is no evidence to doubt that all famines in the modern world are preventable by human action; that when people die of starvation there is invariably some massive social failure (whether or not a natural phenomenon had an initiating role in the causal process); and that the responsibilities for that failure deserve explicit attention and analysis, not evasion.”