Dearth is Hebrew for
1. famine, hunger A. famine (in land, nation) i) of Jevhovah's word (fig)
B) hunger (of individuals)
They mentioned that they had even mortgaged their homes and land in order to buy food. Even the children were being forced, I assume by their parents, into slavery. I think when they say that because their fields and vineyards belong to others, that is why they have had to force their children into bondage - as a form of payment. It is sad to think that in order to eat, children can be used as payment in some degree.
When Nehemiah heard what these people were crying about he talked with the nobles and the rulers and convicted them on their usury. They were using the famine as a means to gain wealth/slaves from their own people who didn't have the means to repay what they owed. Yet if the people who borrowed from them couldn't pay, they would pay with the lives of their youth. Interest on loans being charged among their own people was never acceptable to God. Nehemiah told them to lend without the usury part.
Usury means in Hebrew:
1. lending on interest, usury
Nehemiah asked them to restore to their own people, all they had taken from them, houses, lands, vineyards, olive yards, and the hundredth part of the interest the paid in money well.
The nobles and rulers agreed to restore everything and said they would require nothing from them. Nehemiah made an oath with them to make sure they would abide by what they said.
Nehemiah became the governor of the people. Those who were governors prior to him, were not above board. In fact they were chargeable because they had stolen (from what I read) money and food. Nehemial did what was right because he feared God.
He had his servants help build the wall and he never bought any land. Nehemiah shared his table with an hundred and fifty of the Jews and rulers and some heathen as well.
Nehemiah asked God to remember him for good because of all that he had done for the people of Jerusalem.