A famine is a food crisis in which the scarcity of food is so severe and widespread that it causes large-scale starvation, malnutrition and death.
A food crisis happens when communities experience a significant shortage of food. It can become a famine - but before a famine is declared, a country’s situation must be assessed using a set of common international standards, using the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification.
How is a food crisis measured?
Food insecurity is measured in a scale of five phases:
- IPC-1 is minimal.
- IPC-3 is a crisis.
- IPC-5 is classified famine.
It often takes a long time for famine to be declared in the news and that’s because famine is the worst-case scenario.
What does famine actually mean?
Reaching IPC-5, or famine, means all of the following:
- At least one in five households faces an extreme lack of food
- More than 30 percent of children under five are suffering from acute malnutrition
- At least two people out of every 10,000 are dying each day
Why do food shortages lead to crisis?
Poor nutrition - brought on by food shortages - reduces people's resistance to disease, and makes outbreaks of preventable diseases likely. Water shortages, which force people to use polluted water, increase the risk of waterborne diseases, like cholera. Food insecurity also drives populations to other areas to find better conditions. Large settlements of displaced people can form which again increases the risk of disease outbreak.