Famine: what does it really mean and how do aid workers treat it?

by Imogen Wall

Child being weighed by health care worker to see if the child may be malnourished. ©Matthew Abbott/AP/SIPA

Famine looms in Yemen, Nigeria, South Sudan and Somalia. The horrible, medieval fate of starving to death is once again a 21st-century reality. But what does the word famine actually mean and how do aid workers treat it?

For aid workers, famine is the extreme end of a long spectrum of what is know as food security – jargon for the level of physical and economic access a group of people have to adequate nutrition