It is a severe and prolonged hunger in a region, which led to malnutrition and disease and it could last for a few months to a few years. There could be various reasons natural or a man-made for it to occur. Natural reasons are drought, flood, insect infections and plant disease such as blight. Man-made reasons are feudal social system, population growth and warfare. Warfare is the most common among human cause.
U.N can declare famine on these bases:
When at least 20% of households in a region face extreme food shortages with a limited ability to cope.
When acute malnutrition exceeds 30% in children.
Death rates exceed two people per day per 10000 people.
Some of the most severe famines
A first-ever recorded famine occurred in Egypt in 3500bc and it is preserved in bas-relief in the fifth-dynasty pyramid of Unas in Sakkara.
Bengal famine 1770: 10 million or one-third population of Bengal died due to severe drought and crop shortage, ignored by the East India Company which ruled the region. The company forced farmers to grow indigo and opium, as they were much profitable then inexpensive rice.
Ireland famine 1845–1849: It was due to potato infection called potato blight that ruined half of its production. Irish people depended on it were starved to death or had to migrate that lead to fall its population by 20%-25%. It killed a million people.
Fig. Infected potato with blight
China famine 1907: As china was reeling from the series of poor harvest when a massive flood destroyed the 40000 square miles of agricultural land and led to 100% destruction of the crop. This led to the food riots in the region, daily. 5 million perished by it.
Soviet Union 1930s: The main reason was Josep Stalin’s massive industrialization program in the early 1930s. The government seized the grain to export. When Ukraine reported a famine Stalin punished it by refusing to send them food aid. Eight million perished in this famine.
Bengal famine 1943: With Japanese imperialism growth, Bengal lost its largest trading partner in Burma. A majority of food consumed by Bengali was imported from Burma and Japanese suspended the trade. In 1942 Bengal hit by a cyclone that destroyed 3200 square miles of farmland, and a fungus infection destroyed 90% of the rice, while refugee fleeing from Burma enter in it in millions. 7 million refugees and Bengali died in this famine.
China 1959: 10–43 million died in China as a result of Mao Zedong’s great leap forward in the late 1950s. He planned to modernize agriculture and increase in production of grain. Officials exaggerated the volume of production in many places, and entire grain harvest was seized, and the government doubled its grain export and cut imports of food. Privately own land was outlawed by this program in 1958 and communal farming was implemented. And to increase the production, officials mandated extremely close plantation of the seeds, but it stunted the growth due to overcrowding and it was teamed by the flood in 1959 and a drought in 1960.
The famine of South Sudan 2017: It was occurred due to lack of food supplies caused by several years of war and instability. Crop production has fallen and inflated soared that led to high prices of basic food items. More than 3 million people had to flee, 100000 people were facing starvation and further 1 million on the brink of famine.