A famine is an acute episode of extreme hunger that results in excess mortality due to starvation or hunger-induced diseases.1 It is this crisis characteristic that distinguishes it from persistent malnutrition, which we discuss in another entry on this website. As we discuss in the Data Quality and Definition section below, the term 'famine' can mean different things to different people and has evolved over time. It is only in recent years that more precise, measurable definitions – in terms of mortality rates, food consumption and physical signs of malnutrition – have been developed.

But despite these ambiguities, it is nonetheless very clear that in recent decades the presence of major life-taking famines has diminished significantly and abruptly as compared to earlier eras. This is not in anyway to underplay the very real risk facing the roughly 80 million people currently living in a state of crisis-level2 food insecurity and therefore requiring urgent action. Nevertheless, the parts of the world that continue to be at risk of famine represent a much more limited geographic area than in previous eras, and those famines that have occurred recently have typically been far less deadly – as we will go on to show in this entry.

Read the full article at Our World in Data: https://ourworldindata.org/famines.

Katie Martin