-- Waging an effective fight against
hunger and poverty requires locating the undernourished and
impoverished and identifying the key factors that leave them
To address the
needs of decision-makers in targeting these vulnerable
populations, FAO has just released its latest "hunger
The new maps comprise
data from 1 100 national and subnational geographical units,
providing policy-makers with more precise information to design
programmes that address specific local problems.
The maps show the distribution of chronic
undernutrition worldwide using stunting in growth among children
under five years of age as an indicator.
FAO's previous hunger maps showed country-level
estimates of the percentage of undernourished people, based on
the availability of food and the demographic profile of the
population. They did not estimate, however, the actual number of
people who are undernourished in these locations.
The current data is compiled in two maps -- one
showing the percentage and the second the number of stunted
children around the world. Hunger:
cause and consequence of poverty
Chronic undernutrition impairs the mental and physical
development of children, keeps people from leading healthy,
productive lives and hinders the economic development of
countries. As a result, hunger, a consequence of poverty, is
also a cause of it.
undernutrition, because it involves a host of factors --
families' access to food, safe drinking water, adequate
sanitation and health care -- is a better indicator of poverty
than looking only at food availability or per capita
income," says Prakash Shetty, Chief of FAO's
Nutrition, Planning, Assessment and Evaluation Service.
"If you reduce undernutrition, you
reduce poverty," he adds, "because a healthy,
productive population contributes to the economic growth of
hunger off the map
estimates on the number of undernourished people are useful in
charting a country's progress over time, but cannot be used
to target specific villages or regions and the conditions that
inflict poverty and hunger on their inhabitants.
"Because these maps look at small
administrative areas within countries, they are especially
useful to national decision-makers in pointing out where the
problems of poverty and undernutrition are greatest,"
says Jeff Tschirley, Chief of FAO's Environment and
Natural Resources Service.
A number of
countries are using poverty and hunger maps to target food aid
and public works projects to areas where the poorest people
The new maps were developed as part
of an ongoing research project on the use of geographic
information systems (GIS) for mapping poverty and food
insecurity -- a collaborative initiative funded by the
Government of Norway.
They also form an
important element of FAO's activities under the Food
Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping Systems
(FIVIMS) initiative set up following the World Food Summit in
Combining these maps with maps of
other socio-eonomic and environmental indicators may reveal
factors that contribute to hunger and suggest avenues for
"We are in the process of
producing GIS maps that depict a variety of agro-ecological
conditions: food-crop production systems, access to markets,
fragile areas vulnerable to degradation. This data can then be
overlayed with the data on undernutrition to show possible
linkages," says Tschirley.
can be made, for example, to show semi-arid agricultural areas
with poor access to roads, high levels of female illiteracy and
high incidence of child undernutrition.
Analysing the interplay of all these factors can help
shape effective, sustainable policies to wipe hunger off the
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570 56146