Famine and hunger

Support short-term and long-term solutions to famine and unsafe hunger


What we're doing

We helped more than 2.6 million children and families with 114,000 tonnes of food over four years

Our goal

Help more of the 805 million people without enough food to lead a healthy life


Humanitarian assistance is urgently needed in Somalia. Without enough rain, it could fall into a famine by mid-2017.

Famine is not a word that aid agencies use lightly. But 2017 began with the United Nations and organisations including World Vision warning that without a massive and urgent scale-up of humanitarian assistance, famine could return to the East African nation.

By February, more than 360,000 children under the age of five were acutely malnourished, with 71,000 severely malnourished.

The number of people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance jumped in just six months from five million to 6.2 million – half the country's population. The number of people categorised as being in “crisis and emergency”, one step away from famine, also jumped from 1.1 million to 2.9 million.

The forecast for the Gu rainy season – the main rainy season lasting from April to June – is poor. In a worst-case scenario where the Gu season performs very poorly, famine would be expected by mid-year.

“The warning could not be clearer and it could not be more stark,” said Dick Trenchard, speaking on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organisation in Somalia, the World Food Programme and the UN children’s agency UNICEF.


There is a small window to stop a repeat of the devastating 2011 famine. But we must act now.

“We are undoubtedly in a crisis, but the situation will even get worse, especially if the April rains perform poorly,” said Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Africa director for the International Federation of Red Crescent Societies. “We need to act decisively, we need to act massively, and we need to act now if we are to prevent a repeat of the awful scenes of 2011.”

In 2011, the international community largely ignored warnings from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network. Many see this as one reason so many people died. In Somalia an estimated 260,000 people, including 133,000 children, starved to death.

Humanitarian agencies were stretched by an explosion of crises, with more than 17 million people in the Horn of Africa and Eastern Africa in need of aid as a result of drought and conflict.

Somalia is not the only country in the region again facing a food crisis. After four years of war in South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, 4.6 million people are facing severe food insecurity. Three million people have been forced from their homes, including one million who have fled the country, and almost 200,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition – the highest ever recorded.

World Vision is urgently appealing for funding to help those affected meet their immediate needs through initiatives in food security, health and nutrition, livelihoods, shelter, and water, sanitation and hygiene. 


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Two nomad girls in Somalia, where many areas are facing serious drought conditions in early 2017.

Famine-stricken regions have gotten a lot of attention over the years, and why shouldn’t they?

The United Nations defines famine with some very specific and unsettling parameters:

  • over 20 percent of households don’t get the recommended caloric intake daily
  • over 30 percent of people are in a state of malnutrition
  • there are two deaths per 10,000 people daily

From Ethiopia in the early 80s to Somalia more recently, entire nations plummeting to these levels of hunger has become sadly familiar.

But on a daily basis, even when a nation hasn’t reached the UN-defined level of famine yet, people are struggling with hunger every single day.

Food for life Help families grow crops and breed livestock. This gives families reliable and lasting sources of food and income.

BOTTOM: A Kenyan farmer inspects beans provided by World Vision

Let’s be honest, hunger doesn’t sound as serious. For those living above the poverty line, hunger is just something you feel before dinner.

But for many who live in developing nations, hunger means a potentially fatal lack of nutrients. These deficiencies lead to impaired cognitive development in children, stillbirths and congenital abnormalities. They also reduce the body’s capacity to fight disease.

The most common cause of hunger is insufficient money. Even in famine zones, those with money often have easier access to food.

Regions like the desert states of the Gulf are less fertile than any African country. But because they have money to sustain themselves, they aren’t as hungry.

The second major cause of hunger is a lack of fertile land to grow food on.

Africa’s soil, for example, absorbs little water and hardens when exposed to sun and air. This makes it almost impossible to cultivate.

Many factors contribute to land infertility including drought, poor growing conditions, deforestation and farmers not having the opportunity to learn modern farming methods.

There’s enough food in the world to feed everyone. But control over resources and income is based on military, political and economic power that the minority hold. Those without equal fortune get left behind.

Unfortunately, the battle against famine and hunger isn’t over yet. Millions of people are still deprived of food and at risk of malnutrition.

1 of 6


One out of six children (roughly 100 million) in developing countries is underweight.

66 million

primary school-age children

attend classes hungry across the developing world.



250,000 to 500,000 children go blind every year from vitamin A deficiency.

Early and carefully planned intervention is the key to preventing famine and alleviating hunger ...

... and World Vision is always breaking new ground when it comes to short-term AND long-term solutions.

World Vision is the largest non-government partner of the UN’s World Food Programme, distributing more emergency food and supplies than any other non-government organisation (NGO).

We deliver food to people at immediate risk of malnutrition, while working with communities to strengthen their long-term capabilities to farm and gain income.

We teach farmers how to nurture land, prevent soil degradation, and increase sustainability and productivity. We also supply them with better seeds and cutting-edge farming techniques.

We work in over 55 countries, helping to create resilient communities who can sustainably use their local natural resources and adapt with change as it occurs.

Our 40 Hour Famine program raises money and awareness once a year for the problems we fight so hard to eradicate.

And our farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR) program was behind Africa’s largest environmental change in over a century. The program reforests arid desert into fertile land with enormous crop-growing potential.

Needless to say, World Vision takes hunger and famine prevention seriously.

Provide Life-saving food The impact of your donation will be multiplied to reach even more hungry families.

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