Frontline Stories

Learn about Hunger

When is a famine declared?

Famine has a technical definition based on food security and nutrition. For a famine to be declared there must be evidence of the following three conditions:
  • At least 20% of the population has fewer than 2,100 calories of food a day;
  • Acute malnutrition in more than 30% of children; and
  • The death rate must exceed two deaths per 10,000 people, or four child deaths per 10,000 people per day.
East and West Africa are two of the hardest hit regions by drought, food crisis and famine. In 2011 and 2012, the United Nations declared famine in six regions of Somalia.


What’s the difference between drought, food crisis, and famine?

DROUGHT – There isn’t enough water

It is a climatic condition characterised with prolonged and sustained length of time of abnormally low or no rainfall. Human intervention in the natural environment, pollution, deforestation all contributed to this natural disaster.

FOOD CRISIS – There isn’t enough food and water

A combination of drought, rising food prices, poverty, natural disasters, conflicts, global food prices, disease, and complex emergencies. A food crisis develops when families experience these stresses for several years and run out of ways to cope, and governments and aid agencies fail to intervene.

FAMINE – There isn’t enough food and water for people to stay alive

Severe and widespread shortage of food, that results in large-scale starvation, malnourishment and death. Leads to disease outbreaks and economic and social collapse of the community.
Famine is more of a manmade disaster than a drought, and therefore more easily preventable than a drought.

How do we measure malnutrition in children?

One way to measure malnutrition in children is to use a middle-upper-arm-circumference tool (MUAC). There are 3 different colour zones on the armband, each representing a nutritional status.

The photo here shows a health worker measuring Alhousanne, a 6-month-old girl in Niger.

Alhousanne's measurement from the MUAC showed red (at only 9cm), indicating that she was severely malnourished. Her skin had become unresponsive to touch. Her mother Rakia was very worried and clearly malnourished herself. At only 17 with three children already, it is obvious that this isn't just the failed harvest that has caused this. Childhood marriage and motherhood have contributed to poor maternal nutrition. Her babies were born very small and she struggles to feed them.

Click here for further information on global hunger situation.


Malaria: More Than Just a Health Issue

[2018/04/25] On a Wednesday in late 2017, Francine, 29, a mother of 3 in Burundi, held a young baby in her hands, while her s......

Restoring the Lives of Children Affected By Conflict

[2018/04/16] In Kasai region, in southern Democratic Republic of Congo, a mother is working hard to normalise the lives of ch......

A Chicken-and-egg Solution

[2018/04/03] Harriet’s four young stars can finally dream of eating eggs again. The family of six just received 16 chickens f......

Goals for Syrian Refugee Children

[2018/03/27] When it rains in Za’atari Refugee Camp, it’s chaos.

Empowering Ethiopian Women through a Gardening and Savings Club

[2018/03/08] When Workalem was married at 16 and had her daughter by the age of 17, she seemed to be stuck in a cycle that so......

10 Ways How Children Value Friendship

[2018/02/28] From abuse to hatred, we live in a world constantly confronted with many challenges that affect the lives of mil......

6 Facts about Female Genital Mutilation

[2018/01/26] More than 200 million women and girls around the world are living with the results of the dangerous practice of ......

8 Reasons to Have Hope in 2018

[2018/01/20] Hope is infectious, even healing. But in a world that’s often dark, what is there to be hopeful for? Here are 8 ......

10 Facts: Life in Northern Uganda's Refugee Settlements

[2017/10/26] World Vision, in partnership with two other humanitarian organisations, conducted an inter-agency study of refug......