What is a famine, exactly? A Grid No Dumb Questions Video

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‘No Dumb Questions’: What exactly is a famine?

What exactly defines a famine? Honestly, we thought we knew, but as Nikhil Kumar reported last week in a special look at the situation in Somalia, the answer is complex, the definition complicated, and there are occasions — Somalia today being one of them — when a common-sense determination of “famine” turns out not to fit the official definition.

All of which made us think that “What exactly is a famine?” would be a good candidate for Grid’s “No Dumb Questions” series — and that Kumar would be ideally suited to answer. As he notes in this week’s episode, there is an organization tasked with making the determination, and its process is guided by research and fact-finding, not the emotive power of the scenes and stories on the ground. Kumar also reminds us that beyond the semantic question, a declaration of famine can have profound consequences for the country involved.

We’d love to hear from you with other ideas for the series. We like to think there are no “dumb questions”; or put differently, that there’s almost nothing out there in the world of news and information that couldn’t use a little more clarity and context in terms of the answers. We also know that we have really smart readers and that even the smartest among them can’t be expected to have every shred of important context or background on all the events that are roiling the world at any given moment. Send your ideas and questions to tips@grid.news.

More “No Dumb Questions” videos:

Thanks to Lillian Barkley for copy editing this article.

  • Nikhil Kumar
    Nikhil Kumar

    Deputy Global Editor

    Nikhil Kumar is the deputy global editor at Grid, reporting on global affairs.

  • Angelo Leotta
    Angelo Leotta

    Associate Producer

  • Tom Nagorski
    Tom Nagorski

    Global Editor

    Tom Nagorski is the global editor at Grid, where he oversees our coverage of global security, U.S.-China relations, migration trends, global economics and U.S. foreign policy.