Identifying famines

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a1178 (Published 02 October 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1178
  1. Craig Gundersen, associate professor
  1. 1Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801, USA
  1. cggunder{at}illinois.edu

    Timely, accurate, and accepted measures are needed

    In most of the world, famine is no longer the threat it once was. This is partly because of higher quality information regarding potential food crises, lower transport costs, less expensive storage of food, more disaster relief agencies, and better understanding of nutrition and medicine.1 2 However, famines continue to threaten millions of people across parts of Africa, partly because of armed conflicts in these regions.3 In the past two decades alone, famines have occurred in Sudan (1988 and 1998), Somalia (1991-3), Ethiopia (1985-6 and 2000), and Malawi (2002).3 4 One recent food crisis was in Niger. In the linked study (doi: 10.1136/bmj.a1622), Reza and colleagues examine the magnitude and severity of this crisis to ascertain if it reached famine proportions.5

    An important step in preventing and alleviating famines is to collect and categorise information within vulnerable areas. By doing so, interventions can be prompter …

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