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UN and firms team up to tackle hunger

A new map released this week highlights global crisis points and success stories.

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The figures are almost too big to comprehend: 800 million of the world's 6.4 billion people go through their days hungry. About 300 million of them are children.

But a new map released this week by the United Nations and partner organizations puts a finer point on those numbers. It's a country-by-country survey of hunger around the world. And it arrives at a time of fresh focus on hunger and poverty in places like Zimbabwe and Congo - and on how corporations are stepping up to help fight food shortages. It also highlights some surprising findings:

• Eritrea has the highest rate of undernourishment in Africa - 73 percent. That's far higher than the 46 percent rate in neighboring Ethiopia, which is notorious for its hunger problems.

• Marxist North Korea has an undernourishment rate of 36 percent, significantly lower than the 47 percent rate in Haiti, in America's backyard. (Tajikistan and Yemen round out the only four countries outside Africa that have undernourished rates higher than 35 percent.)

• South African transportation giant TNT provided trucks, airplanes, and staff in 2003 to help bring 33 tons of supplies to refugees in Chad who had fled fighting in Sudan's Darfur province.

The map's release comes as Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe agreed this week to again receive food from international donors. Last year, he ejected most aid groups.

But with an estimated 4.8 million people now verging on starvation, Mr. Mugabe told UN special envoy James Morris on Wednesday that he would accept food aid. (Thursday Zimbabwe's social welfare minister said that the country was not requesting food aid, but welcomed any that comes.) Zimbabwe's undernourishment rate is 44 percent.

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