Before delving into a discussion regarding the Great Irish famine and the recent famines of Africa and Asia, we must first acquaint ourselves with key aspects regarding famines. The aspects that need to be looked at are: the various definitions of famine, the factors that cause…
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This definition focuses on the failure of that particular region to deal with the symptoms of famine. It also focuses on the role played by the market; accounting for changes in market demands which hence impacts what happens in the local markets. Many of these regions hit by famines are particularly sensitive to world prices, mostly because they themselves are very small and so cannot influence prices. What is lacking in this definition however is that it does not explain clearly that famine is the end product of a long process whereby people slowly lose access to food. Another aspect lacking in this definition is that it does not explain the breakdown of social support systems, where reciprocity and goodwill slowly start to disappear under the increasingly stressful system. While high death rates are what mark a famine, the increased disunity and societal collapse are inevitable end results of this phenomenon. Atkins (2009) discusses how difficult it is to define the term famine. In order to measure this phenomenon, he argues that the intensity of it would be looked at. Devereux (1998) looks at two other perspectives on what famine is. One view sees famine as a natural disaster; the result is a lack of food and the cause is failed policy measures by the state or market interventions that were unable to achieve the purpose it had intended. The other definition does not include famine as a natural occurrence. Rather, it sees famine as resulting from successful policy measures by the state – it views the state as essentially repressive and as wanting to keep a tight control over its population. Also, this view on famine blames the international community as being opportunistic and apathetic, helping only when an internal benefit to itself is seen. The former definition is an outsider perspective, arguing that the cause of famine lies in the food distribution system and has nothing to do with repressive political regimes
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