All people, at all times, should be food secure, and have physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Famine represents a lack of food security where people are dying, or are more likely to die. A famine declaration however also belies many more unconscionable truths, the decisions with life-long consequences forced upon individuals and households in their quest to preserve their resources, no matter how meagre, to ensure immediate and long-term survival.
A famine declaration does not tell us the number of people who are left with no choice but to leave their homes in search of aid or employment. It does not tell us of the families torn apart and the heart-breaking decisions of who leaves and who stays behind.
It doesn’t note tell us of the number of girls forced to leave school to work, to care for sick family members, and who in the middle of prolonged drought and armed conflict are left exposed to sexual violence during ever longer journeys to fetch water.
It does not tell us of the women and girls who reduce their own food consumption to feed men and younger children, or of those forced to engage in transactional sex to pay for food.
A famine declaration does not tell us of the number of child brides effectively sold to reduce the burden on their families, and to secure dowries to pay for the needs of remaining family members. Nor of the child brides whose bodies are not yet mature enough to survive childbirth in the absence of access to birth attendants or medical services.
A famine declaration does not tell us that lack of food security is not only about food, but also a failure, our failure, to protect the lives, rights, dignity, and aspirations of all members of society equally.
It may be that above all else, what it does tell us, is as much about ourselves as an international community, as it is about those who do, and those who do not, survive it. However uncomfortable that thought might be.