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Causes of Starvation

by
author image Martin Hughes
Martin Hughes is a chiropractic physician, health writer and the co-owner of a website devoted to natural footgear. He writes about health, fitness, diet and lifestyle. Hughes earned his Bachelor of Science in kinesiology at the University of Waterloo and his doctoral degree from Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Ore.
Causes of Starvation
A young African girl drinks water from a tap Photo Credit Riccardo Lennart Niels Mayer/iStock/Getty Images

Overview

Numerous factors can cause starvation. According to the World Hunger website, hunger -- which is intimately associated with starvation, or the -- is the uneasy or painful sensation caused by food cravings, and develops due the prolonged scarcity of essential nutrients in a particular country or region. In some cases, a person can experience starvation even though plenty of food is nearby and available for consumption. In other cases, social, environmental and political factors can cause starvation.

Anorexia Nervosa

Certain eating disorders, especially anorexia nervosa, can lead to starvation. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, or UMMC, a person with anorexia nervosa -- usually a teenage girl living in a developed country -- has an extreme fear of gaining weight, which causes her to maintain a weight that is at least 15 percent less than her normal body weight. A person with anorexia will do almost anything to avoid weight gain, including starving herself or engaging in exercise in an obsessive manner. Common signs and symptoms associated with anorexia nervosa include excessive weight loss, absent menstrual periods, thinning hair, dry skin, cold hands, swollen extremities, upset stomach, decreased blood pressure, fatigue, unusual heart rhythms and osteoporosis. The UMMC states that a person with anorexia nervosa will often engage in obsessive-compulsive behaviors, be in denial of her condition and suffer from depression.

Drought and Famine

Drought and famine can cause starvation in an entire geographic region. According to the United Nations University, or UNU, prolonged drought or lack of rainfall may be intimately associated with food shortages and famine. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, states that a drought is a period of unusually persistent dry weather that lasts long enough to cause sufficient crop damage or water supply shortages. The severity of a drought largely depends on the degree of moisture deficiency, the duration of the drought and the size of the geographic region affected. According to the NOAA, there are four different ways a drought can be described: meteorological, agricultural, hydrological and socioeconomic. All four aspects of drought can combine to cause crop failure, water shortages, famine and, in some cases -- especially in certain developing countries -- mass starvation.

Natural Disasters

Certain natural disasters can cause starvation in large groups of people. According to the United Nations World Food Program, or UNWFP, there are 925 million undernourished people in the world today. Among the most common causes of hunger and starvation are financial and economic crises, over-exploitation of the environment, poor agricultural infrastructure, poverty, conflict and natural disasters. Natural disasters that may cause food shortages and starvation include floods, tropical storms, tsunamis and earthquakes. The UNWFP reports that natural disasters can have calamitous consequences on food security, especially in poor, developing nations. In numerous countries, climate change -- an emerging threat to food security -- is making already adverse natural conditions worse, challenging farmers' ability to grow enough food to support themselves and feed their communities.

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