Famine is conventionally portrayed as a natural disaster expressed in terms of food scarcity and culminating in starvation. This view has attracted criticism in recent years as the political, legal and social dimensions of famine have become more clearly understood. This paper draws upon these criticisms to understand the particular conditions of famine creation in conflict situations. Following an examination of six contemporary African famines, it is suggested that the use of food as a weapon of war by omission, commission and provision has contributed to the creation of famine in recent decades. Despite the optimism for peace engendered by the demise of the Cold War, the momentum for conflict would seem to be sustained by internal factors, including economic and environmental decline, political instability and ethnic rivalry. Within these conflicts, the strategic importance of food is likely to remain central. This study highlights the need to link concerns with food security and public health to those of development, human rights and international relations.