The Atlas of World Hunger

By Hanson, Holly | African Studies Review, April 2011 | Go to article overview

The Atlas of World Hunger


Hanson, Holly, African Studies Review


GEOGRAPHY, ENVIRONMENT, AND DEMOGRAPHY Thomas J. Bassett and Alex Winter-Nelson. The Atlas of World Hunger. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010. xiii + 201 pp. Maps. Figures. Tables. Photographs. Appendixes. Notes. Bibiography. Index. $45.00. Cloth.

Thomas Bassett and Alex Winter-Nelson document the geography of hunger in a volume that provides a new tool for scholars and policymakers and a clear, vivid, accessible account of global poverty and hunger for students and an enquiring general public. Bassett and Winter-Nelson emphasize that hunger problems are "rooted and experienced" at multiple levels, that poverty and lack of entitlements cause hunger, and that "these realities are ultimately rooted in policies and political economies that fail to protect the poor from exacerbating conditions and events that push people deeper into poverty, heighten their vulnerability, and produce hunger" (71).

After demonstrating that measures of hunger through food availability are inadequate because they fail to consider distribution of food within a nation, and measures of prevalence of undernutrition (POU) do not capture the consequences of seasonal hunger or unequal distribution of food within a household, they propose a new scale, the Hunger Vulnerability Index. This index combines food availability, $2.00/ day poverty, and growth failure for children under five in order to capture the individual, household, and national dimensions of the problem of hunger. Using the Hunger Vulnerability Index, the book investigates the sources of hunger, considering the role of resources, technology, institutions, power relations, and forms of distribution at the national and international levels, and the incidence of poverty, the distribution of entitlements, and the role of exacerbating factors at the household level, all of which lead to malnutrition for individuals. The result is maps, tables, and graphs demonstrating that population growth, changes in the resource base, and environmental disaster are not the causes of hunger.

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