Famine and Hunger Definitions – Relief and Solutions

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Famine and Hunger Definitions - Relief and Solutions: Find out how and where you can help!

In 2011 famine and hunger definitions relief and solutions seem to be evolving. World hunger is increasing as populations expand and weather patterns are changing. Although famine and hunger are two separate afflictions, they both wind up with the same results.

According to World Hunger.Org, there were 925 million hungry people in the world in 2010, making famine and hunger a priority for some.

Famine and Hunger Definitions:

Hunger definitions:

  1. The uneasy or painful sensation caused by want of food, craving appetite, or the exhausted condition caused by the want of food.
  2. The want or scarcity of food in a country
  3. A strong desire or craving.

Famine definitions:

  1. Famine is a widespread scarcity of food, which is typically in association with or followed by malnutrition, starvation, epidemics, and an increase in mortality rates.

Famine and Hunger Relief and Solutions

World hunger in this case refers to the second definition, aggregated to worldwide levels. The related technical term (in this case operationalized in medicine)  is coined malnutrition, which is a generic term that indicates a lack of some or all nutritional elements necessary for human health and wellbeing. There are two different types of malnutrition, the first and most important being protein-energy malnutrition, or PEM. The second type is micronutrient deficiency and is not the type of malnutrition that is referred to when world hunger is the primary topic, although it is important.

Protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) is the most lethal form of malnutrition/hunger. It is basically a lack of calories and protein. Food is converted into energy by humans, and the energy contained in food is measured by calories.  Protein is necessary for key body functions including provision of essential amino acids and development and maintenance of muscles.

With the current amount of coverage on famine in Africa, this leads us to question “Does the world produce enough food to feed everyone?”

The world in fact produces more than enough food to feed everyone in the world. Today the world agriculture systems produce 17 percent more calories per person than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase. This is enough food to provide everyone in the world with a minimum of 2,720 kilocalories (kcal) per person per day (FAO 2002, p.9).  The primary problem today is that many people in the world live in areas with insufficient land to grow, or economic resources such as income to purchase enough food.

What are the primary causes of famine and hunger?

What are the causes of famine and hunger is a fundamental question, with varying answers.

Poverty is the principal cause of hunger. The causes of poverty include poor people’s lack of resources, an extremely unequal income distribution in the world and within specific countries, conflict, and hunger itself. As of 2008 (2005 statistics), the World Bank has estimated that there were an estimated 1.345 billion poor people in developing countries who live on $1.25 a day or less. This compares to the later estimate of  1.02 billion people that are undernourished.  Extreme poverty remains an alarming problem in the world’s developing regions, despite some progress that reduced “dollar–now $1.25– a day” poverty from (an estimated) 1.9 billion people in 1981, a reduction of 29 percent over the period. Progress in poverty reduction has been concentrated in Asia, and especially, East Asia, with the major improvement occurring in China. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the number of people in extreme poverty has increased.  The statement that ‘poverty is the principal cause of hunger’  is, though correct, unsatisfying.  Why then are there so many impoverished or poor people?

Harmful economic systems are the principal cause of poverty and hunger in the world today. Hunger Notes believes that the principal underlying cause of poverty and hunger is the standard operation of the economic and political systems that currently are in place in the world. Basically speaking, the primary control over natural resources and income is based on military, political and economic power that typically winds up in the hands of a minority who lives very well, while those at the bottom barely survive, if they survive at all. There is a more in depth description of Harmful economic systems at the World Hunger site, just follow the previous link to harmful economic systems.

Conflict is considered as a cause of hunger and poverty also. By the end of 2005, the global number of refugees was at its lowest level in almost 25 years. Despite some large-scale repatriation movements, the last three years have witnessed a significant increase in refugee numbers, due primarily to the violence taking place in Iraq and Somalia. By the end of 2008, the total number of refugees under UNHCR’s mandate exceeded 10 million. The number of conflict-induced internally displaced persons (IDPs) reached some 26 million worldwide at the end of the year. Providing exact figures on the number of stateless people is extremely difficult to estimate, but it is important, somewhat visible though it is, and anguishing for those involved in conflict is less important as poverty, and its causes as a cause of hunger. Using the statistics from above that estimate 1.02 billion people suffer from chronic hunger, but only 36 million people are displaced gives us a bigger picture of the problem.

Ironic as this may seem, hunger is also a cause of poverty, and thus, ultimately of hunger. By causing poor health, low levels of energy, and even mental impairment, hunger can lead to even greater poverty by reducing people’s ability to work and learn, thus leading to even greater hunger, and becomes a never ending deadly cycle.

Climate change is becoming increasingly viewed as a current and future cause of famine and hunger as well as poverty. The prospects of increasing drought, flooding, and changing climatic patterns requiring a shift in crops and farming practices that may not be easily accomplished are three key issues, all of which may lead to increased periods of famine.  See the Hunger Notes special report:  Hunger, the environment, and climate change for further information, especially articles in the section: Climate change, global warming and the effect on poor people such as Global warming causes 300,000 deaths a year, study says and Could food shortages bring down civilization?


Some elements make a particular region more vulnerable to famine which include poverty, inappropriate physical infrastructure, inappropriate social infrastructure, a suppressive political regime. a weak or under-prepared government. Food shortages in a population are caused by either a lack of adequate food or by difficulties in the food distribution system. It may be worsened by natural climate fluctuations and by extreme political conditions which are related to oppressive governments or warfare, or even lack of governmental infrastructures. One of the most proportionate large recorded historical famine was that of the Great Famine in Ireland in 1845. It began in 1845 because of a potato disease and was occurring even as their food was being shipped to England. The English could afford to pay the higher prices, the Irish not so much. Historians recently revised their assessments about how much control the English could have exercised in reducing the famine, finding they did more to try to help than was originally understood, however, this claim remains unverified. The conventional wisdom until 1981 for the cause of famines was the Food availability decline (FAD) hypothesis. This assumption asserted that the primary cause of all famines was the overall decline in food availability. A famine can be created by droughts, more population than is sustainable, and a wide array of other causes. Typically, a famine is associated with being that of a natural origin, although with mans inherent wisdom, we have had our hand in creating a famine at least a few times.

The demographic impacts of famine are harsh. Mortality is heavily concentrated amongst the children and the elderly. A new theory believes that modern famine are sometimes aggravated by misguided economic policies, political design to impoverish or marginalize certain populations, or acts of war, political economists have investigated the political conditions under which famine is prevented. Amartya Sen states that the liberal institutions that exist in India, including competitive elections and a free press, have played a major role in preventing famine in that country since independence. Alex de Waal has developed this theory to focus on the “political contract” between rulers and people that ensures famine prevention, noting the rarity of such political contracts in Africa to reduce the risk of famine, and the danger that international relief agencies will undermine such contracts through removing the locus of accountability for famines from national governments.

Progress is being made in reducing the number of famine and hunger and hungry people slowly, but surely. The target set at the 1996 World Food Summit was to halve the number of undernourished people by 2015 from their number in the 1990-92 time frame. The FAO uses three year averages in its calculation of undernourished people. The estimated number of undernourished people in developing countries  was 824 million in 1990-92. In 2009, the number had climbed to 1.02 billion people.  The WFS goal is a global goal adopted by the nations of the world, and the present outcome indicates how marginal the efforts were in face of the real challenges and need. So, overall,  the world is not making progress toward the world food summit goal, although there has been progress in Asia, and in Latin America and the Caribbean. Unfortunately, with the current world economic status, the problem will only get worse, not better, and that includes developed nations, and even in the United States, so if you are fortunate enough to be able to help in this time of famine, or want to help, we have compiled a list of relief organizations to help famine and hunger relief. These have also been top rated by the American Institute of Philanthropy, or Charity Watch if you will.

Feeding America: HELP FEED AMERICA’S HUNGRY: Our mission is to feed America’s hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks and engage our country in the fight to end hunger.

Action Against Hunger: Action Against Hunger | ACF International is an international humanitarian organization committed to ending world hunger. Recognized as a leader in the fight against malnutrition, Action Against Hunger | ACF International saves the lives of malnourished children while providing communities with access to safe water and sustainable solutions to hunger. With 30 years of expertise in emergency situations of conflict, natural disaster, and chronic food insecurity, ACF runs life-saving programs in some 40 countries benefiting five million people each year.

Bread For The World: Bread for the World is a collective Christian voice urging our nation’s decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad. God’s grace in Jesus Christ moves us to help our neighbors, whether they live in the next house, the next state, or the next continent.

Food For The Hungry: Our Mission: To walk with churches, leaders and families in overcoming all forms of human poverty by living in healthy relationship with God and His creation.

Freedom From Hunger: Freedom from Hunger is an international development organization working in nineteen countries across the globe. Freedom from Hunger is a nonprofit, nongovernmental, nonsectarian organization classified by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) charity. All donations to Freedom from Hunger are fully tax-deductible.

The Hunger Project: The Hunger Project is a global, non-profit, strategic organization committed to the sustainable end of world hunger. In Africa, South Asia and Latin America, The Hunger Project seeks to end hunger and poverty by empowering people to lead lives of self-reliance, meet their own basic needs and build better futures for their children. The Hunger Project carries out its mission through three essential activities: mobilizing village clusters at the grassroots level to build self-reliance, empowering women as key change agents, and forging effective partnerships with local government.

Worth mentioning on our part, but not from Charity Watch List.

World Visions’s 30 Hour Famine: Fighting poverty for over six decades. It all started when evangelist Bob Pierce came face to face with children orphaned by war in Korea — and decided he had to do something. Letting God lead the way. The inspiration of Bob Pierce’s prayer, “Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God,” lives on today in the work of our staff — and in groups like yours — as we rise together to serve the hungry and the oppressed. Serving millions in nearly 100 countries. We rush emergency aid to disasters, work alongside communities in need, and speak out on behalf of the poor, all with the help of passionate people like you who are committed to making a difference. Helping nearly 4 million sponsored children reach their God-given potential by providing access to life-saving basics like clean water, better nutrition, healthcare, and education.

unicef: Working in over 150 countries, UNICEF provides children with health care, clean water, nutrition, education, protection, emergency relief, and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF’s work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States. Despite extraordinary progress, 22,000 children still die each day from preventable causes. Our mission is to do whatever it takes to make that number zero by giving children the essentials for a safe and healthy childhood.

World Food Programme: WFP is the food aid arm of the United Nations system. Food aid is one of the many instruments that can help to promote food security, which is defined as access of all people at all times to the food needed for an active and healthy life. ¹ The policies governing the use of World Food Programme food aid must be oriented towards the objective of eradicating hunger and poverty. The ultimate objective of food aid should be the elimination of the need for food aid.

UNHCR Do 1 Thing: UNHCR marks its 60th anniversary in 2011 but what does the UN refugee agency do and who does it help exactly? Learn more about UNHCR and the millions of people it helps around the world at UNHCR The UN Refugee Agency.

USA for UNHCR: The United States Association for UNHCR (USA for UNHCR) supports the UN Refugee Agency’s humanitarian work to protect and assist refugees around the world. We strive to meet the needs of the world’s most vulnerable people, building support and awareness in the United States for UNHCR’s life-saving relief programs. Established by concerned American citizens, USA for UNHCR is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Save the Children: Save the Children is the leading independent organization creating lasting change in the lives of children in need in the United States and around the world. Recognized for our commitment to accountability, innovation and collaboration, our work takes us into the heart of communities, where we help children and families help themselves. We work with other organizations, governments, non-profits and a variety of local partners while maintaining our own independence without political agenda or religious orientation.

International Rescue Committee: The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people to survive and rebuild their lives. Founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein, the IRC offers lifesaving care and life-changing assistance to refugees forced to flee from war or disaster. At work today in over 40 countries and in 22 U.S. cities, the IRC restores safety, dignity and hope to millions who are uprooted and struggling to endure. The IRC leads the way from harm to home.

Doctors Without Borders: Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization working in nearly 70 countries to assist people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe.

care: CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. We place special focus on working alongside poor women because, equipped with the proper resources, women have the power to help whole families and entire communities escape poverty. Women are at the heart of CARE’s community-based efforts to improve basic education, prevent the spread of disease, increase access to clean water and sanitation, expand economic opportunity and protect natural resources. CARE also delivers emergency aid to survivors of war and natural disasters, and helps people rebuild their lives.

Mercy Corps: Mercy Corps helps people turn the crises they confront into the opportunities they deserve. Driven by local needs, our programs provide communities in the world’s toughest places with the tools and support they need to transform their own lives. Our worldwide team in 36 countries is improving the lives of 19 million people.

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC): The ICRC, established in 1863, works worldwide to provide humanitarian help for people affected by conflict and armed violence and to promote the laws that protect victims of war. An independent and neutral organization, its mandate stems essentially from the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, it employs some 12,000 people in 80 countries; it is financed mainly by voluntary donations from governments and from national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies.

American Jewish World Service: American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is an international development organization motivated by Judaism’s imperative to pursue justice. AJWS is dedicated to alleviating poverty, hunger and disease among the people of the developing world regardless of race, religion or nationality. Through grants to grassroots organizations, volunteer service, advocacy and education, AJWS fosters civil society, sustainable development and human rights for all people, while promoting the values and responsibilities of global citizenship within the Jewish community.

Islamic Relief USA: Islamic Relief USA™ has received awards and accreditation’s from a number of charity and business auditors.

With these relief organizations, you should be able to find one that will suit your needs. Thank you for caring, and reading Famine and Hunger Definitions and Solutions, as we strive to end world hunger and famine across the globe.

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