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Academy Statement on Global Famine

In alignment with its mission to accelerate improvements in global health and well-being through food and nutrition, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics implores world leaders and policymakers to rapidly unite efforts to allocate resources that ensure universal access to food and water, end the deliberate restriction of food and water during conflict, support and protect humanitarian aid workers, and implement effective strategies to prevent famine. It is incumbent upon the international community across all sectors to prioritize the alleviation of suffering inflicted by starvation and malnutrition as a paramount objective everywhere, every time, without reservation.

Famine knows no boundaries. Whether born of conflict or violence, population displacement, natural disaster, environmental degradation or economic crises, famine is the result of a combination of factors occurring simultaneously or sequentially and often is exacerbated by a lack of access to essential humanitarian aid. Among the most vulnerable are pregnant parents, infants and children, with devastating long-term impacts on physical and cognitive development, leading to stunted growth, cognitive impairments and increased susceptibility to diseases.

According to the United Nations’ recent Hunger Hotspots Report spanning November 2023 to April 2024, Burkina Faso and Mali, South Sudan, the Sudan and most recently Palestine are identified as areas of utmost concern — with populations identified or projected to experience starvation or death or at risk of deterioration towards catastrophic conditions. Regions with emergency-level acute food insecurity include Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Pakistan, Somalia, the Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen, where life‑threatening conditions are expected to further intensify.

Famine is defined and classified by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification system to allow governments and non-governmental organizations to identify the scale of food insecurity and respond through public statements, public policy and international action. Famine — categorized as the most severe of five phases of food insecurity — is reached when 20 percent of households have extreme lack of food, 30 percent of children suffer from acute malnutrition, and at least two in every 10,000 adults (or four out of 10,000 children) are dying every day from outright starvation or by malnutrition compromising their immune systems to an extent that they’re unable to fight off disease.

Famine is most often triggered by conflict, particularly when access to food and water is deliberately restricted or destroyed and people are forcibly displaced from their communities. Environmental contributors include drought or flooding, extreme temperatures, insect infestations and diseases affecting crops and livestock. Economic crises exacerbate the situation by increasing unemployment and poverty and reducing resources to address food needs for vulnerable populations. Famine devastates communities, disrupts economies and deepens global inequalities — and it must be prevented through concerted action, innovative policies and sustained commitment to our collective humanity.

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