The majority of the world's population survives with hunger and infections as constant companions and lives in "accident-prone" nations where famine and epidemic diseases often complicate the civil conflicts and natural disasters that are, unfortunately, regular events. Television pictures of the skeletal starving are the tragic, terminal images in a complex cycle of progressive malnutrition, especially in victims already burdened by an incredible array of dangerous parasitic, bacterial and viral organisms. Since widespread hunger and the existence-or even threat-of contagions are the most common reasons offered to justify international humanitarian interventions, it is important that all involved in determining and effecting foreign policy be familiar with the evolving clinical face of famine.