To deprive a man of his natural liberty and to deny to him the ordinary amenities of life is worse then starving the body; it is starvation of the soul, the dweller in the body.”

Mahatma Gandhi, Leader

Starvation: Causes, Effects & Solutions

causes, effects and solutions for starvation

Starvation can be defined as an extreme form of malnutrition that results from an insufficient intake of calories.

If the calory intake is below the level that is needed to maintain an organism’s life, starvation will eventually even lead to death.

Especially in poor developing countries, starvation is still a big problem since wealth is quite unequally distributed and many people suffer from a lack of food.

Apart from death, starvation can also lead to severe long-term health consequences, including organ damages.

Thus, it is crucial that we fight starvation on a global scale. In this article, the extent, causes, effects and solutions regarding starvation are examined.

Audio Lesson

Extent of Starvation on a Global Scale

As at 2018, around 800 million people worldwide suffer from hunger.

This means that one in nine people on our planet suffers from hunger.

Most of the people suffering from starvation and hunger live in developing countries, where around 13% of the total population suffers from malnutrition due to insufficient food supply.

The region that suffered from hunger the most was Sub-Saharan Africa.

Around 490 million of these people suffer from hunger due to wars and conflicts.

Thus, if we were able to stop conflicts and wars, this alone would lead to a reduction of starvation and hunger worldwide by more than half.

Causes for Starvation

  1. Poverty
  2. Geographical factors
  3. Unemployment
  4. Drug use
  5. Inequality in the distribution of wealth
  6. Corruptive activities
  7. Gender inequality
  8. Food shortages
  9. Global warming
  10. Conflicts
  11. Political interests
  12. High levels of public debt
  13. Migration issues


Poverty is a great cause of starvation. Imagine you come from a poor family and do not have enough money to afford basic things for your daily life.

If the level of poverty is too extreme, you may not even be able to afford enough food or drinks.

The problem of poverty is especially severe in poor developing countries and is currently worst in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Thus, especially in this region, the problem of starvation is also worst there.

Geographical factors

The starvation issue can also be caused by geographical factors.

Imagine you live in a region where there is a quite hot and dry climate and you have to make your living as a farmer.

Chances are that in periods with no rain, you may not have enough water to sluice your fields, which in turn may lead to severe losses in yields.

This may result in severe starvation for you, your family and also for many other people in this region that rely on your harvest.


Unemployment may also be a reason for starvation.

Especially in areas with no or insufficient social security, unemployment can lead to enormous problems.

For instance, if you live in a poor country and you become unemployed, you will be in big trouble since you may not be able to afford your rent anymore which may lead to homelessness.

Moreover, without money, you will also not be able to afford food and may suffer from significant malnutrition which may translate into starvation.

Drug use

The use of certain substances can also be a cause for starvation.

If people are addicted to drugs, they often spend all their money on these substances since their brain tells them that this is the most important thing and all other needs are secondary.

In the extreme, this may end in a state where people do not have money to spend on food which may in turn translate into hunger and eventually into serious starvation.

Inequality in the distribution of wealth

In some countries, the unequal distribution of wealth is a significant problem.

While some people on the top of the wealth pyramid have excessive wealth and can afford almost everything they want, the majority of the local population often suffers from extreme poverty.

In these regions, many people who are on the lower end of the wealth distribution pyramid may suffer from severe starvation.

Corruptive activities

In many countries, corruptive actions are also a big problem which may lead to an unequal distribution of wealth and may also imply hunger and starvation.

In those countries, it is hard to get out of poverty since institutions simply do not want the general public to get more power and may suppress every movement that strives for more public rights and higher living standards.

Gender inequality

Gender discrimination is a big issue, especially in many developing countries and in regions where people are quite traditional.

In these regions, it is often regarded as the job of women to raise children instead of pursuing a career.

Moreover, women are often not regarded as equally important compared to men and are therefore often treated quite poorly.

For instance, many families cannot afford to send all their kids to school.

In this case, families often choose boys over girls since they regard them to have better chances to financially support them in the future.

However, this means that girls often stay uneducated.

This lack of education may translate into serious issues, especially in later stages of their life when their husbands leave them.

In this case, these women will have a quite hard time since they may find no job due to their lack of education and may therefore suffer from starvation and other issues like homelessness.

Food shortages

In some regions, due to political restrictions or climatic conditions, there may be general food shortages.

Imagine a rural area where people rely on the harvest of farmers in order to survive.

If the yield will be much lower than expected due to droughts or other environmental issues, people in those regions will suffer from significant starvation since they may not be able to get their food from other sources.

Global warming

The global warming issue exacerbates the problem of starvation.

Due to global warming, an increasing number of farmers, especially in Africa, will no longer be able to tilt their fields since there will not be enough water left to do so.

If people in those areas do not migrate to other countries, chances are that they will suffer from significant hunger which may eventually translate into starvation due to the adverse environmental conditions.


Conflicts are a significant reason for the starvation issue.

People often have to leave their homes behind and have to relocate to other places to stay alive.

This relocation process often implies the loss of their livelihood, which may translate into serious malnutrition since they will often have no social security and no income to buy food.

Moreover, wars also often cause severe injuries for a large number of people.

These injuries may prevent these people from working in a job, which may further exacerbate the starvation problem.

Political interests

In countries with strict political regimes, especially in dictatorships, the people on the top who have enormous power do not want the general public to get power and to be able to raise their living standards since they fear to lose their power.

Thus, these regimes may try to keep the general public poor in order to sustain their power and wealth, which may translate into starvation for the local population.

High levels of public debt

Some poor developing countries also struggle with high levels of public debt.

In these countries, people often do not have proper social security since the state simply cannot afford to provide social security for the general public.

This in turn may translate into serious starvation issues, especially if people in these countries become unemployed and are no longer able to buy food and other things for their daily life.

Migration issues

Due to conflicts or wars or other issues, many people worldwide are forced to leave their home and all their belongings behind in order to survive and find a better future.

However, this better future is often just a wish.

Many people will have it quite hard since they have to start from zero again.

If these people do not find a job, they may be in serious trouble since no one will financially support them, which may translate into hunger and starvation.

Effects of Starvation

  1. Physical health issues
  2. Mental health issues
  3. Long-term health issues
  4. Weak immune system
  5. Organ failures
  6. Heart attacks
  7. Fatalities
  8. Lower life expectancy
  9. Lack of education
  10. Conflicts
  11. Radical movements

Physical health issues

Malnutrition and starvation can lead to serious physical health issues.

If your body doesn’t get enough nutrients, you may lose all your power and your muscles may no longer work properly.

This may translate into states where you will no longer be able to walk or carry out basic tasks of your daily life. It may also lead to enormous pain from seizures since due to magnesium deficiency.

Mental health issues

Starvation can also lead to significant mental damage.

A lack of nutrients may lead to a state where your brain will no longer work properly and you will have difficulties to focus which may cause you to lose your job and end up homeless.

Moreover, you may also suffer from hallucinations due to hunger and may no longer be able to think in a clear manner.

Additionally, the chances for dementia or depressions increases due to a lack of food.

Long-term health issues

There are also many long-term issues related to malnutrition.

This is especially true if children do not get enough food and nutrients.

These children may often suffer from a lack of mental capacities since their brain has not been able to fully develop due to food shortages.

These kids may also suffer from growth problems since food is necessary for stable growth.

In addition to physical long-term health issues, there may also be mental issues related to starvation since people may often be trapped in desperation, which mentally often manifests in depressions.

Weak immune system

Due to a lack of vitamins, minerals and energy, people suffering from starvation often also have a weak immune system.

The body is just quite vulnerable to diseases since the immune system is quite weak, which may often result in serious health issues.

Organ failures

Long-term malnutrition may also lead to organ failures.

The body requires a minimum of food to stay healthy.

If your body is not able to get this amount of food, it may not work properly anymore at one point.

At this point, chances for organ failures increase dramatically, which may even result in death in many cases.

Heart attacks

Heart attacks may be another consequence of extreme malnutrition and hunger.

People who suffer from starvation may suffer from heart conditions since the heart will no longer be able to withstand the pressure that it gets for insufficient minerals and vitamins, which may lead to heart attacks and additional heart issues.


If the starvation issue is too severe, it may even result in a high number of fatalities in the long run.

The body is only able to sustain its functions for a limited time without enough food.

Lower life expectancy

The overall life expectancy of people who are suffering from starvation is much lower due to the issues mentioned before compared to people who are able to get enough food.

Especially in poor developing countries, life expectancy can be quite low. For instance, the life expectancy for children born in 2018 is around 53 years in Central Africa, while it is almost 90 years in Hong Kong.

Many people in Central Africa suffer from starvation, while the average income in Hong Kong is quite high and almost no one suffers from starvation there.

Thus, these facts give you an impression of how devastating starvation can be regarding the overall life expectancy of people.

Lack of education

A lack of education can also be due to hunger and malnutrition.

If people suffer from starvation, they may often not be able to attend school since they either do not have the money or are also not able to focus on learning things due to food shortage.

However, this may in turn translate into further issues, since a lack of education often traps people in poverty.


Since the level of frustration and desperation increases substantially if people do not have enough food, chances for conflicts also increase.

However, this only worsens the situation, since conflicts are also a reason for starvation.

Thus, this can translate into a vicious circle of malnutrition and conflicts, which can lead to enormous pain for the local population.

Radical movements

People who are desperate to get out of starvation are often also easy to recruit for radical movements since they want to survive.

If joining a radical movement is the only way to get enough food, many people may decide to do so since they just do not see an alternative to provide for their families.

Solutions for Starvation

  1. Global programs against starvation
  2. Fight corruptive systems
  3. Fight gender inequality
  4. Distribute wealth more equally
  5. Set incentives for companies to open branches in poor regions
  6. Donations
  7. Change consumption behavior
  8. Reduce waste production
  9. Use alternative means of transport instead of cars
  10. Avoid food delivery
  11. Buy from companies that pay fair wages

Global programs against starvation

It is our responsibility as a human species to take measures to end starvation on a global scale.

There are some international programs in place which aim to do so. In fact, to eradicate hunger is one of the millennium goals of the United Nations.

There are also several other foundations that aim to fight starvation and end hunger.

Thus, in this regard, we are on a good path to be able to fight starvation efficiently.

However, it has to be assured that all countries support these programs until hunger is entirely eradicated from our planet on a global scale.

Fight corruptive systems

In countries where corruptive actions are a big problem, there should be measures to mitigate this issue since it is often a significant cause for poverty and starvation.

This could mean that countries refrain from trade with countries which are known for high levels of corruptive activities.

By doing so, the pressure on these countries will increase to change their political style since they would otherwise get economically vulnerable.

Fight gender inequality

Gender inequality is a significant cause of starvation of girls and women worldwide.

Thus, in order to reduce starvation, it is also crucial to fight gender discrimination.

This could mean that governments install support programs for girls so that these girls are able to attend school even if their parents do not financially support them.

It could also mean that government officials and also celebrities raise awareness on the topic of gender inequality and show that there is no reason to discriminate against women at all.

By doing so, gender inequality can be lowered and also the issue of starvation can be fought to a certain extent.

Distribute wealth more equally

It is also crucial to distribute wealth more equally.

Especially in countries where a quite small percentage of people own almost all of the countries’ wealth, there should be some measures to reallocate wealth so that the poorest do not have to suffer from starvation while the richest also have enough financial measures left once the redistribution of wealth has happened.

By doing so, the starvation issue could be fought to an enormous extent.

Set incentives for companies to open branches in poor regions

Especially in regions with high unemployment rates, it is crucial that governments set the incentive for firms to open branches in those regions.

This could come in the form of tax advantages or other financial incentives.

By creating jobs for the local population, chances are that the starvation issue can be lowered since more people may be able to earn a sufficient income and thus to get out of poverty.


You can also make your contribution to fight starvation by donating money to organizations that aim to fight hunger and malnutrition.

By doing so, the starvation problem could be mitigated to a certain extent.

However, it is crucial that not only private persons make donations, but also that companies joint the fight against starvation.

By bundling our efforts, starvation can be fought much more effectively.

Change consumption behavior

You can also contribute to a reduction in starvation if you change your consumption behavior.

In our nowadays society, everyone wants to have the newest stuff, including the hippest clothes and the latest electronics.

Old stuff is often disposed into the trash bin, even if it is still working.

Moreover, plenty of food is not consumed but thrown away every day.

By changing our consumption behavior and reducing our overall demand for goods, we can mitigate starvation since these goods can be used in countries where they are urgently needed instead of shipping them to our Western world.

Reduce waste production

It is also crucial that we reduce our waste production.

Since a large fraction of our waste is simply burned, large amounts of waste also imply high levels of greenhouse gas emissions which in turn contribute to global warming.

However, global warming is a big cause of starvation.

Therefore, if we are able to reduce our waste production, we can also indirectly fight the starvation issue.

Use alternative means of transport instead of cars

You can further contribute to slow down global warming by using public transport or even your bicycle instead of your car.

By doing so, you can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are a main cause of global warming and the resulting starvation issue.

Avoid food delivery

Avoiding food delivery services and cooking yourself instead can also lower greenhouse gas emissions and waste production, which in turn can mitigate starvation.

Although the effect of avoiding food delivery may be considered to be quite small, small things often add up to a significant positive contribution.

Buy from companies that pay fair wages

There are companies that also contribute to the goal to fight poverty.

By supporting those companies, you can also contribute your part to fight starvation.

There are some certifications that indicate that products have been manufactured with the help of people who have been paid fair wages.

Thus, by supporting those companies, you can also increase the incentives for other firms to join fair labor programs.


Starvation is a big global problem, especially in many poor developing countries.

Starvation can lead to serious health conditions, both physically but also mentally. In order to fight hunger and malnutrition, our countries have to work together on a global scale.

You can also make your contribution by changing your consumption behavior.

By doing so, all of us can make a contribution to fight starvation and therefore to increase the quality of life for many people all over the world.


About the author

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.

As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.

After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.

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