MapMaker: Undernourishment

MapMaker: Undernourishment

More than 700 million people lack access to enough nutritious food to keep them healthy, which can cause a condition called undernourishment. The United Nations uses undernourishment rates to monitor and combat global hunger in support of their Sustainable Development Goals. Use this map to explore undernourishment rates around the world.


5 - 12+


Anthropology, Biology, Health, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Geography, Social Studies, Human Geography


Map by National Geographic

Learning materials

Undernourishment is a condition that occurs when people do not have enough nutritious food to maintain their health. This could be due to either the quality or the quantity of food people eat, which are often related to the region they live in, how much money they have, or the demands of their lifestyle. Over time, it can have dangerous health effects like high blood pressure, a weakened immune system to help fight infection, or a decrease in bone health called osteoporosis.

In 2000, leaders from around the world gathered at the United Nations to discuss ways to reduce the number of people living in poverty, a significant cause of undernourishment. Ten years after this plan was created, the percentage of undernourished people in low-income countries was lowered by almost half. This value is called the Prevalence of Undernourishment (PoU) indicator, and it is used to monitor undernourishment patterns across the world.

It is the responsibility of the United Nations to collect data and calculate PoU values, and between 2014 and 2019, it remained steady at about 8.4 percent globally. In 2020, though, this number jumped to 9.9 percent, largely due to the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The UN reports that nearly one in three people did not have access to adequate food in 2020—an increase of almost 320 million people in a single year. Today, more than 700 million people suffer from undernourishment, making it an important public health issue.

The world’s farmers produce more than enough food to fulfill everyone’s needs, indicating that the issue is not scarcity of food but access to it. Challenges like unreliable infrastructure, political instability, and erratic weather make finding healthy food more difficult due to disruptions in food production and distribution. In the data shown on this map, the country reporting the highest PoU value was Haiti, where an earthquake, several hurricanes, and a drought within the previous decade have made it difficult for food to reach the people of Haiti.

Sustainable Development Goals are objectives created by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations recognizing that ending undernourishment is closely related to improving education, reducing inequality, fighting climate change, and addressing other hardships of the world. The PoU indicator helps the FAO monitor food insecurity in support of Sustainable Development Goal 2, which says, “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” Sustainable Development Target 2.1 expands on it, “by 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round.” Understanding which countries or areas of the globe are experiencing the highest rates of undernourishment is important for informed policymaking. In this map layer, with data provided by the FAO, the color and size of the symbols represent each country’s PoU value in 2018.

Undernourishment is more prevalent in some areas of the world than others, but people experience undernourishment everywhere. Volunteering, donating money, or dropping off supplies at a local food bank or food pantry can help combat undernourishment in your community.

Media Credits

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GIS Specialist
Zoë Lieb, National Geographic Society
Eleanor Horvath, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

January 22, 2024

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