From top-left to bottom-right or from top to bottom (mobile): child victims of famines in the Netherlands (1944-45), India (1943-44), and Nigeria (1967-70)

A famine is a widespread scarcity of food,[1] caused by several factors including war, inflation, crop failure, population imbalance, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality. Every inhabited continent in the world has experienced a period of famine throughout history. In the 19th and 20th century, it was generally Southeast and South Asia, as well as Eastern and Central Europe that suffered the most deaths from famine. The numbers dying from famine began to fall sharply from the 2000s.

Some countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, continue to have extreme cases of famine. Since 2010, Africa has been the most affected continent in the world. As of 2017, the United Nations has warned some 20 million are at risk in South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen. Agricultural conditions have been fluctuating more and more due to variations in weather, and the distribution of food has been affected by conflict. Most programmes now direct their aid towards Africa.


According to the United Nations humanitarian criteria, even if there are food shortages with large numbers of people lacking nutrition, a famine is declared only when certain measures of mortality, malnutrition and hunger are met. The criteria are:

  • At least 20% of households in an area face extreme food shortages with a limited ability to cope
  • The prevalence of acute malnutrition in children exceeds 30%
  • The death rate exceeds two persons per 10,000 persons per day

The declaration of a famine carries no binding obligations on the UN or member states, but serves to focus global attention on the problem.[2]

Other Languages
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العربية: مجاعة
bamanankan: Kongon
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български: Масов глад
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español: Hambruna
Esperanto: Malsatego
euskara: Gosete
فارسی: قحطی
français: Famine
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ગુજરાતી: દુષ્કાળ
한국어: 기근
Ido: Famino
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íslenska: Hungursneyð
italiano: Carestia
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Kiswahili: Njaa
kurdî: Xela
latviešu: Bads
lietuvių: Badmetis
lumbaart: Carestia
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Nederlands: Hongersnood
नेपाली: भोकमरी
日本語: 飢饉
norsk nynorsk: Hungersnaud
occitan: Famina
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Ocharchilik
ភាសាខ្មែរ: គ្រោះទុរ្ភិក្ស
português: Carestia
română: Foamete
Runa Simi: Hatun yarqay
Scots: Faimin
sicilianu: Caristìa
Simple English: Famine
slovenčina: Hladomor
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Masovna glad
svenska: Hungersnöd
தமிழ்: பஞ்சம்
татарча/tatarça: Açlıq
తెలుగు: కరువు
Türkçe: Kıtlık
українська: Масовий голод
اردو: قحط
Tiếng Việt: Nạn đói
walon: Pômagne
Winaray: Katgutom
ייִדיש: הונגער
中文: 饑荒