LONDON (AlertNet) - Following is a summary of the 10 worst famines of the 20th century. It is very difficult to assess the exact number of people who died in any one famine. The figures given are best estimates.1. China 1958-62
Between 10 and 30 million people died as a result of Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward. His plan involved modernising agriculture and increasing grain production. Farmers were collectivised into communes of about 25,000 people and had to give the state a large percentage of their crops. Officials often exaggerated the size of harvests, and in many places the entire grain harvest was seized together with livestock, vegetables and cash crops. China's leaders appeared to have been unaware of the severity of the famine - from 1958 until 1961 China doubled its grain exports and cut imports of food.2. Soviet Union 1921-22
Nine million people died. Massive crop failures due to drought were largely ignored by Vladimir Lenin's government, which did not respond until it was too late.3. Soviet Union (Ukraine) 1932-34
Between seven and eight million people died as a result of Josef Stalin's massive industrialisation programme in which the government seized grain for exports. It needed the hard currency to buy industrial equipment. When people in the Ukraine reported a famine, Stalin punished them by refusing to send them food aid.4. Northwest China 1927
Between three and six million people died. The famine was triggered by drought but made worse by local warlords and harsh taxes.5. China (Henan) 1943
Five million people died as a result of a combination of invasion by Japan and grain seizures by the Chinese army to feed its troops and finance the war.6. North Korea 1995-99
Between 2.8 million and 3.5 million people died because of a combination of flooding and government policy.7. India (Bengal) 1943
Between 2.1 and three million people died as a result of crop failure, the exporting of foods by India's British administration to Allied soldiers fighting in World War Two, the end of rice imports from Burma following Japanese invasion and a lack of food price controls by the British administration.8. China (Hunan) 1929
Two million people died because of drought and conflict.9. Soviet Union (Ukraine and Belorussia) 1946-47
Two million died because of drought and government policy - the re-enforcement of agricultural collectivisation policies after World War Two. This was the last famine in the Soviet Union.10. Cambodia 1979
Between 1.5 and two million died of famine following a decade of conflict - first during the civil war from 1970 to 1975, then during the brutal Khmer Rouge era until 1978 and finally in the aftermath of the Vietnamese invasion that ended Khmer Rouge rule in 1979.
- Famine in the 20th Century
by Stephen Devereux, Institute of Development Studies, UK
- Field Exchange, Emergency Nutrition Network
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