More than 10 million people in southern Africa-Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swazilan, Zambia, and Zimbabwe-are currently threatened with famine, with the crisis being particularly severe in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The immediate causes of the food shortage, namely of maize, the region's staple crop, are drought, flooding, and low levels of planting. However, what has made these countries so vulnerable to famine is chronic poverty, inadequate development policies and, in some cases, poor governance. Shocks such as drought bring collapse only to systems that are already weakened by these factors. The key to preventing food shortages and possibly famine, therefore, is effective and appropriate food security policies and responsible governance. Policies for mitigating the effects of a critical food shortage or famine lie on a spectrum ranging from immediate relief to recovery to initiating development. Preventing future famines requires long-term development policies. In addressing the crisis, policymakers should design measures that not only provide relief, but which also lay the foundations for development. Interventions must be combined and sequenced with each other, depending on a country's context, to generate the greatest possible short- and long-term benefits. Described here are policy approaches, that IFPRI research in Africa has shown to be effective in mitigating severe food shortage and enabling development.