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Poverty and Famine

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McGill University
International Development
INTD 200
Warren Allmand

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2012: Poverty and Famine  Famine usually happens in response to a shock (a drought, a flood, an economic recession). It isn’t just about food, it is about access to that food.  Food security means that food is available at all times. This means that all people have means of access to it (not just growing it themselves, but also having means to buy it). This means that the food is nutritionally adequate in terms of quantity, quality and variety, and that it is acceptable within the given culture (ex. in Northern Laos, rice is the staple crop, and when rice is not available they consider themselves food insecure, even if there are other foods they could eat).  We hear a lot about African famines in the media, but one of the main issues in food security is not famine—it is chronic under nutrition. Chronic under- nutrition is one aspect that occurs when there are consistent food shortages. It exists when people are malnourished for a long period of time.  It stunts growth and impacts intellectual development in children.  It is often seasonal—ex. they have lots of food after a harvest, but when it begins to run out there are food shortages in rural areas and prices of food goes up in urban areas.  This does not just occur in rural areas, it can happen in countries that are food exporters (ex. Kenya). They are exporting food on the market, but people are hungry in the country.  Work-for-food programs try to help with problems decreased food production.  In countries that import a lot of food, this has an affect on production within the country because it decreases the price of the food in the country. It can also decrease prices for what the local people are producing to sell.  Social identities play a role because distribution is not always equal:  For example, gender is affected in the household, which is a site of consumption and production. Who gets access to the best is affected by household power relations—typically women and children don’t get first choice of food in patriarchal societies. This occurs particularly when there are shocks.  Health has an impact: food security can be related to HIV. Because it affects productive
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