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About this report

Now in its third issue, The State of Food Insecurity in the World reports on global and national efforts to reach the goal set by the 1996 World Food Summit: to reduce by half the number of undernourished people in the world by the year 2015. The crafters of the Summit Plan of Action felt that great progress could be made towards this objective if countries could focus on the following three questions:

These three questions form the subject of the first section of this year's report. Entitled Undernourishment around the world, it provides FAO's most recent estimates of the prevalence of undernourishment and the absolute number of undernourished in 125 countries for the period 1997-99. It also compares these latest estimates with those of the base period (1990-92) for the Summit, thereby giving a picture of country performances over the past decade and an important update for the upcoming World Food Summit: five years later. It also examines some of the factors associated with significant national reductions or increases in undernourishment. Finally, it addresses the question of whether access to food is becoming more equal among and within countries.

The section Assessing nutritional status and vulnerability describes practical methods that have either been used in the past or are currently being developed in different countries to identify segments of the population exhibiting physical signs of malnutrition and, subsequently, to analyse the livelihoods of the people concerned so as to address the income risks underlying their vulnerability. These patterns of hunger and vulnerability are greatly complicated by continuing severe national shocks from natural and human-induced disasters and from the ballooning menace of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The final section of The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2001, Action against undernutrition and poverty, provides some illustrative answers to a fourth question: What can be done? Among the actions proposed are the more accurate targeting of food aid, and measures to improve access to clean water - both essential factors for assuring people the basic energy and health to participate in creating a better future for themselves. In addition to these fundamental factors, suggestions are given as to the myriad practical measures that can be taken to improve the livelihoods of rural people, who continue to constitute the vast majority of poor people in most parts of the world.

This report draws on the ongoing work carried out by FAO and its international partners in monitoring the nutritional status of populations worldwide, in analysing the vulnerability of populations and in providing real world examples of how communities can be enabled to better their own lives. As a contribution to the interagency Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping Systems (FIVIMS) initiative, it illustrates the role that such enhanced systems can play in helping to build a less vulnerable, more food-secure world.

Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping Systems

On behalf of all members of the FIVIMS Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG), once again I am very pleased to associate the IAWG with this third edition of The State of Food Insecurity in the World. IAWG members contributed in many ways to the results contained in this publication, and the information and analyses presented contribute directly to our common FIVIMS objectives. They will:

  • increase global attention to problems of food insecurity;
  • improve data quality and analysis through the development of new tools and capacity building in developing countries;
  • promote more effective and focused action to reduce food insecurity and poverty;
  • promote donor collaboration on food security information systems at the global and country levels;
  • improve access to information through knowledge networking.

With more than 20 members representing the non-governmental, bilateral and multilateral development communities, the IAWG represents a diverse set of perspectives and interests. What brings us together is our shared commitment to reduce global food insecurity and vulnerability and to attack its multiple causes, which are deeply rooted in human poverty. For effective programming and relevant policy formulation, developing countries and development agencies need reliable, adequately detailed and disaggregated information, identifying who the food-insecure are, where they are located, how they earn their livelihoods and why they are food-insecure. With such information, development partners at all levels can combine their efforts to attack hunger and poverty at their core through sound policies and more responsive interventions.

Most IAWG member institutions were already working to improve food security information systems around the world well before FIVIMS was officially established in 1997. FIVIMS, however, provides a mechanism by which to increase efforts within its member institutions, while at the same time reducing duplication and ensuring that the collective, interagency effort is more efficient and synergistic. To advance reform of the UN system, particular priority is placed on results-driven collaboration at the country level within the United Nations Development Assistance Framework. Despite enormous programmatic and institutional challenges, I am proud to report that

we are indeed making significant progress based on our common commitment and solid fieldwork, further enhanced by new computational and communication technologies.

IAWG members congratulate the FAO team on this year's excellent report. It will be an invaluable information and advocacy tool within our respective agencies' programmes. We look forward to contributing even more substantially to future editions.

Peter Matlon (UNDP)


Bilateral aid and technical agencies

Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID)
Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
European Commission (EC)
German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ)
United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

United Nations agencies

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
International Labour Organization (ILO)
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA)
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
World Bank (WB)
World Food Programme (WFP)
World Health Organization (WHO)
World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
Administrative Committee on Coordination/Sub-Committee on Nutrition (ACC/SCN)

Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR)
International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)

International non-governmental organizations
Helen Keller International (HKI)
Save the Children Fund (SCF)
World Resources Institute (WRI)

Regional organizations
Southern African Development Community (SADC)
Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS)
For more information, please refer to the IAWG-FIVIMS Web site at

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