Charity #: 1192169


Charity #: 1192169


What’s Worse: Drought or Famine?

A dead tree on dry and cracked soil

Many people who donate to the drought crisis in East Africa don’t always understand how droughts and famine differ from each other. We’ll be taking a closer look at some of the differences between the two below:

Understanding the Types

Famine doesn’t have any different kinds, but a drought can be of three types:

  • Agricultural drought is said to take place when the agricultural produce in a given region falls below ordinary levels. Note that the decrease is significant enough to be a threat to the local food supply.
  • Meteorological drought is the most frequently observed kind of drought. It describes a decrease in rainfall in a region over a specific period. The duration of the period may vary.
  • Hydrological drought is sometimes caused by meteorological drought. It occurs when a natural water body—such as a lake or river—falls below its acceptable levels. This may happen due to natural reasons, or it may be the result of urbanization, development, and construction.

Understanding the Reasons


Depending on its type, a drought may happen due to natural or man-made reasons.

If they’re man-made, they may happen quickly over the short term (such as diverting a stream for construction or building dams over rivers) or slowly over the long term (such as global warming and climate change).


A famine is a scarcity or lack of access to food, which happens due to a number of different factors. These factors may include natural causes—such as crops dying due to extreme weather events—or man-made reasons, such as:

  • Wars and other conflicts
  • Improper farming methodologies
  • Geopolitical reasons
  • Inflation
  • Ineffective governance or policy failures

Understanding the Consequences


Agricultural drought disrupts the local food supply, often resulting in less affordable or low-quality food items.

Meteorological drought can create extremely dry conditions that encourage wildfires and the destruction of trees.

Hydrological drought affects the local wildlife and the human communities who depend on natural water sources for their water supply.


Famine primarily targets the two extremes of a population: the very young and the old.

In these segments, the malnutrition caused by famine leads to weakness, decreased immunity, diseases, infections, and even death.

Over time, famine creates population imbalances and has severe economic and social consequences.


It’s important to understand that a drought doesn’t have to result in famine.

People can cope with droughts and other such conditions if they have adequate knowledge, resources, and planning.

This requires an effort on all levels, from the international community and national governments to local administrations and the general public.

Boats on a dried-up riverbed




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