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Human disasters 

Human disasters
Chapter:
Human disasters
Author(s):

Amartya Sen

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198746690.003.0026
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date: 25 February 2021

Human disasters, as massive misfortunes long recorded over history, have great importance for medicine, rightly prompting the call for prevention, relief, and practical intervention by medical personnel. But why do human disasters happen? A sharp distinction is sometimes drawn between natural disasters (e.g. earthquakes), and social disasters (e.g. wars), but detailed knowledge often shows that this contrast is not always clear: many disasters have mixed causes. Taking the example of famines. These are popularly understood in terms of food output decline, yet many famines have occurred without any decline in food production. Such misunderstanding has been responsible for the loss of millions of lives, mainly by undermining the role of social intervention. Starvation is a characteristic of some people not having enough food to eat, not of there being not enough food in the economy. Even when nature plays a part in human disasters, society can make a huge difference.

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