Other diseases, including avian flu (bird flu), mad cow disease, West Nile virus, swine flu (H1N1), and influenza have raised concerns about the global spread of disease. Diseases often spread before health officials know they exist, and some diseases have proven hard to contain. When a disease spreads rapidly across a wide area, it is called an epidemic..

The HIV/AIDS epidemic was first reported in 1981 and soon spread around the world. It has taken a staggering human and economic toll, especially in southern Africa and Southeast Asia. More than 36 million people have died from HIV/AIDS, and as many as 70 million were infected with HIV. The treatment and prevention of AIDS became a global priority. In some nations, education about how to stop the transmission of AIDS lowered infection rates. Despite progress, HIV/AIDS continues to spread.

Hunger and Famine

For tens of millions of people, hunger is a daily threat. Overall, the world produces enough food to feed the entire population, but food is unevenly distributed. Governments and international organizations have tried to find ways to improve farming and food distribution and to address the underlying causes of poverty and hunger.

Photo of an African baby with white netting draped over their head.

Malaria, transmitted by the mosquito, is common in regions close to the Equator. Netting draped over bedding can help prevent this dangerous disease.

In countries racked by conflict or struck by natural disasters, hunger often escalates into famine. A famine occurs when large numbers of people in a region or country face death by starvation.

During the 1970s and 1980s, civil wars in Ethiopia and Sudan worsened the effects of drought, leading to widespread famine. Each side in the conflict tried to keep relief supplies from reaching the other. As refugees from the conflicts flooded into camps, international aid groups provided food and water, saving millions of people from starvation.

While famine relief is needed to end a crisis, shipping tons of food to poor nations hurts local farmers. A flood of food forces prices down so that local farmers cannot earn enough to make a living.

People Search for a Better Life

Globalization has led to the vast movement of people around the world. Millions of migrants, both legal and illegal, head to Europe, Asia, and North America. Each year, the United States alone receives about one million legal immigrants and 300,000 or more illegal immigrants. Since World War II, Germany has welcomed large numbers of Turkish, Italian, and Russian immigrants to make up for the part of the labor force that was lost in two world wars.

Although some people migrate to find jobs or reunite with families, millions more aree refugees, people who are forced to move because of poverty, war, persecution, natural disasters, or other crises.

Many migrants find jobs and create better lives in their new countries. But they sometimes face hostility and discrimination. While many industrial countries have offered safety to people fleeing persecution, they have tried to limit the flood of economic migrants, people seeking jobs or better lives. Many people in the developed world resent these economic migrants, claiming they take jobs and services from natural-born citizens.

As migration has grown, so has the smuggling of people across borders. Many illegal immigrants pay smugglers large sums to help them reach their destinations. The UN estimates that human smuggling is a multi-billion dollar global industry.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments