Kinsey Spears et al. publish an occasional paper on gender, famine, and mortality

December 2021

Kinsey Spears, Bridget Conley, and Dyan Mazurana published an Occasional Paper on gender, famine, and mortality with the World Peace Foundation in December 2021.

During times of famine, sex, gender, and age differences matter. These factors impact who dies, who lives, and how people suffer; they shape lives and livelihoods before, during, and after crises. But precisely how and why these factors intersect with famine conditions is an issue of much debate. This Occasional Paper investigates the evidence and explanations for sex, gender, and age differences across 25 famines.

Globally, across their lifespan, women and girls experience hunger—chronically and endemically — more than men and boys. Multiple factors shape this reality: laws and practices that discriminate against females, patriarchal norms that value males over females, lower pay for female labor, fewer property rights for females, biological factors that increase the impacts of hunger (e.g., menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth and lactation), and females’ reduced access to educational, financial, political, and social resources. This paper explores how and why famine intersects with these gendered disadvantages and advantages.

It analyzes the cause of death, biological factors, health outcomes for famine survivors, in situ coping strategies, and migration patterns. Additionally, the authors address the gendered nature of coping strategies exposes men, women, boys, and girls to serious, and at times different, risks and harms. They document and analyze the potential long-term gender and age health and socio-cultural risks associated with exposure to mass starvation. The paper concludes by discussing the implications these issues have for protection and accountability.

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