6 Famines That Killed Millions

Somalia Refugee Camp 911 Response
ABCNEWS.com

Famine is nothing new for Somalia, where drought and political instability left thousands to die in the early 1990s. While starvation is unfathomable on any scale, some famines are far worse than Somalia's.

Here are famines with estimated death tolls in the millions.

6 Famines That Killed Millions

The Great Chinese Famine

Imagine wiping the populations of Florida and Illinois off the face of the earth. That was the magnitude of the Chinese famine of the late 1950s and early '60s, when an estimated 30 million people died, possibly more. Maybe the greatest famine ever, it stemmed not from natural disaster but from unnatural public policy that, historians say, sprang from Mao Zedong's misguided communist government.

6 Famines That Killed Millions

The North Korean Famine

It's difficult to get even mundane information from reclusive North Korea, let alone a verifiable count on the number of people who starved to death in the late 1990s after a series of environmental crises. Estimates range as high 3 million, enough, whatever the truth, to solicit a rare plea for help from the North Korean government.

6 Famines That Killed Millions

The Soviet Famine of 1947

The Russians have known famine since at least the 17th century, with the last major one, in 1947, caused by drought and the state's insufficient effort to get arguably surplus stock in the hands of some of the 1 million to 1.5 million people who starved to death.

6 Famines That Killed Millions

The Bengal Famine of 1943

Some people, including Madhusree Mukerjee in her "Churchill's Secret War," heaped scorn on Winston Churchill for diverting food from starving Bengalis in British-administered India to feed his troops fighting World War II across Europe. Others argue that the local population mismanaged its otherwise sufficient supplies. Either way, at least 3 million people are believed to have died in what is now Bangladesh and eastern India.

6 Famines That Killed Millions

The Soviet Ukraine Famine of 1932-33

Also known as Holodomor, or "death by hunger," this man-made famine falls at the feet of one man in particular: Josef Stalin. In his determination to destroy Ukrainian nationalism, historians generally agree, Stalin confiscated grain from Ukrainian peasants, even the seeds. It was methodical, it was traumatic, it was brutal, killing up to an estimated 7 million people.

6 Famines That Killed Millions

The Great Irish Famine

Alternately called the Irish Potato Famine and perhaps the most commonly known of them all because of its folk-legend status, the Great Irish Famine of the late 1840s resulted from blight-ravaged potato crops that left an estimated 1 million to 1.5 million people dead and the country with a quarter fewer people after others emigrated to escape the horrors.

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