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close this bookTackling Hunger in a World Full of Food: Tasks Ahead for Food Aid (WFP)
close this folder1. Food security: sustaining people
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentTimes of plenty do not rule out hunger
View the documentHumanitarian crises and acute hunger
View the documentHunger within the household
View the documentThe chronically poor and hungry
View the documentThe geography of hunger

Humanitarian crises and acute hunger

1.7 The first group comprises people who face the threat of starvation, and perhaps the violence of physical assault. These are the victims of humanitarian crises. Where the cause of acute hunger is a natural disaster, such as a drought or locusts, actions need to be swift to assist people in their home areas in order protect their livelihoods. Without a swift response, loss of life and productive assets, through farm and livestock sales and seed consumption for survival, can result in a long-term erosion of development potential for whole regions. For example, the international response to exceptional drought in southern Africa in 1991/92 was successful in preventing widespread famine mortality. Yet, the scale of the drought was such that countless households lost many of the productive assets and had to use up income reserves in order to survive the crisis.

For victims of humanitarian crises, survival is the priority

1.8 Problems of hunger are compounded by displacement associated with conflict, the immediate cause of most crises since the early 1990s. The hungry are often forced from their homes by civil or international strife. In these so-called "complex emergencies" innocent people are often uprooted from their homes; they lose most of their possessions and face months, perhaps years, of misery; and they may face death. To these people, survival supersedes thoughts of long-term development.