Crash Course: What Really Causes Famine?

Emergency Response

It’s that time of year again—back-to-school season. To celebrate students returning to the classroom, we thought it was only appropriate to share one of our favorite crash courses on two events with which WFP is all too familiar: drought and famine.

The video below—produced by acclaimed author and YouTube sensation John Green—breaks down the root causes of drought, a natural weather phenomenon, and famine, which is almost always the result of human activity.

As John explains, when people go hungry “the issue isn’t existence of resources, it’s access to resources.”

There are a lot of factors that cause food shortages to strike and hunger to ensue.

For example, harmful governement policies such as Stalin’s collectivization program can cause mass starvation. Market failures like when there’s enough food in the market but people simply can’t afford it, can also trigger a famine. Droughts and natural disasters can excerbate hunger, especially among those at the bottom of the food chain, but more often then not it’s human driven phenomenons such as food price spikes which cause widespread food insecurity. 



This connection between drought and famine is critical to WFP’s work.

As the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger, WFP builds upon this knowledge to connect people with the resources that will keep them alive and help them thrive, ultimately, making famines a problem of the past.  

Click here to learn more about how WFP is helping communities fight back against the threat of hunger.