Today, the UN officially declared famine

Internally-displaced women with their children await food rations at a food distribution centre in Dharkenley district, Mogadishu (Image: Abdurashid Abdulle/AFP/Getty)

 in two regions of southern Somalia. But what exactly does this mean?  Perhaps surprisingly, the definition of famine is somewhat more complex than a simple shortage of food. 

For the UN to officially declare a famine, three important conditions must be met. First, 20 per cent of the population must have fewer than 2100 kilocalories of food available per day. Secondly, more than 30 per cent of children must be acutely malnourished. And finally, two deaths per day in every 10,000 people – or four deaths per day in every 10,000 children – must be being caused by lack of food.

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5 Responses to UN definition of famine

  1. Tn says:

    Hi- do you mean 2100 calories a day?

    • Richard says:

      I would guess so – but this is what the article in The New Scientist said!

  2. jbo says:

    A “calorie” as used in the food industry (at least in the U.S.) is a kilocalorie.


  3. […] Famine -For the UN to officially declare a famine, three important conditions must be met. First, 20 per cent of the population must have fewer than 2100 kilocalories (NB not calories, the two are different measurements) of food available per day. Secondly, more than 30 per cent of children must be acutely malnourished. And finally, two deaths per day in every 10,000 people – or four deaths per day in every 10,000 children – must be being caused by lack of food. […]

    • admin says:

      Thanks for this – it seems a bit harsh! 0% would be better!

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