Home News What is famine? Who determines that famine exists?

What is famine? Who determines that famine exists?


A group of global experts said on Tuesday Gaza faces high risk of famineBut it does not indicate that the war has already begun.

Officially determining that a famine exists is a technical process. It requires expert analysis, and only government authorities and senior United Nations officials can declare a famine.

So how do we define famine? Let’s take a closer look.

Food security experts are committed to Comprehensive classification of food security stagesThe IPC, or International Pollution Control Initiative, is an initiative controlled by UN agencies and major relief organizations that determines famine in an area based on three criteria:

  • At least 20% of households face extreme food shortages.

  • At least 30% of children Suffering from severe malnutrition.

  • Every day, at least 2 adults or 4 children out of every 10,000 people die from hunger or diseases caused by malnutrition.

Since the IPC was developed in 2004, it has been used to identify only two famines: in Somalia in 2011 and in South Sudan in 2017. In Somalia, more than 100,000 people died before famine was officially declared.

IPC analysts expressed serious concern about food shortages in Yemen and Ethiopia due to civil wars, but said the information provided by the governments was insufficient to make a formal assessment.

The classification of famine in Somalia and South Sudan has galvanized global action and led to massive donations.

The first IPC report on Gaza, released in December, found that food security for the entire population of Gaza was at crisis levels or worse. While the organization said Gaza had not yet crossed the famine threshold, it warned that the risk of famine levels would increase if the war did not stop.

A Second analysis In March, it was predicted that 300,000 Palestinian civilians in northern Gaza were “imminently” facing famine, and that this would occur by the end of May.

The group’s analysis on Tuesday said nearly half a million people in Gaza face starvation due to severe food shortages. The group said aid deliveries have improved the situation in the north, but Israel’s ground operations in the south have disrupted aid distribution there.

The December IPC analysis was based on publicly available data from international and local aid groups in Gaza, which the group said met its methodological standards. But IPC analysts said they lacked up-to-date data on acute malnutrition rates. The group added that obtaining such data in war zones is difficult, placing a burden on already overstretched health workers.

The organization’s standards were originally developed to deal with weather-related famines, not wartime crises like Gaza. But the worst famine crises in recent history have been caused by conflict, not weather.

While IPC experts can determine famine levels through analysis, it is up to government authorities and the United Nations to officially declare famine.

In some cases, countries are hesitant to do so. In 2022, Somalia’s President Express reluctance Famine is declared during a severe hunger crisis caused by drought. In 2021, Ethiopia blocked the classification of famine in the Tigray region through heavy lobbying. According to a senior UN official.

It is unclear exactly which body can declare a famine in Gaza. The IPC group said the process usually involves a country’s government and its senior UN officials. It said determining who is the competent authority in Gaza is beyond the group’s remit.

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