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In this paper we present salient lessons learned through the International Relief/Development Project about the relationships between disasters and development. We discuss approaches to famine response and prevention, including the impact of global food distribution efforts on the capacities of people affected by famine and offer criteria for planning famine relief so that it will promote systemic, long term development of these capacities. We first describe a collaborative research project which showed that it is possible for international famine assistance either to promote the capacities of people who suffer from famine so that they are better able to handle future food crises, or to leave those it purports to help worse off and even more vulnerable to subsequent disasters. We then illustrate alternative strategies for promoting development in the midst of crisis by presenting information about a number of famine response programs and analyzing their impact on capacities and vulnerabilities.