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GCSE - Resources Global inequalities

An overview of global inequalities in the supply and consumption of resources

The access to food, water and energy resources is not shared equally amongst the people of the world.  There are massive inequalities (where people have different access to resources) in people’s access to clean water, reliable energy supplies and adequate food supplies. The general pattern is for HICs to consume a far higher amount of resources than LICs.  We have enough food, fresh water and energy resources to provide for everyone on our planet, but these resources are not evenly distributed or shared.

Global inequalities in the supply and consumption of food

There are still people in the world who do not have enough food to eat.  The map below shows the daily kilocalorie intake for the countries of the world.  Throughout sub-Saharan Africa there are countries where the number of calories is too low to sustain good human health. This is known as undernourishment. In some HICs like the UK the kilocalorie intake is actually too high and has led to an obesity “epidemic”.

Figure 3 Calorie intake around the globe

Global inequalities in the supply and consumption of water

Water is essential to human life.  Although our planet has abundant water over its surface (70%) only 2.5 percent of it is fresh. The rest is saline and ocean-based. Of that fresh water just 1 percent of is easily accessible, with much of it trapped in glaciers and snowfields.

A water footprint can be calculated to compare the consumption of water in different places.  This includes visible water use such as water for drinking, cooking and washing but also less visible uses of water used for growing our food and for making our clothing, cars or computers. The less visible uses of water can often contribute the biggest portion of the water footprint.

The UK’s water footprint is 3400 litres per person per day, whilst in Bangladesh it is just 2,100 litres per person per day.

The map shows countries that are suffering from water scarcity.  Physical water scarcity is when countries do not have enough water due to climatic reasons and other physical reasons, such as Northern Mali in the Sahara Desert.  Economic water scarcity is where a country has water, but does not have the economic means to access it, as is the case in parts of Afghanistan.


Energy resources are also unequal, and the consumption of energy varies hugely across the globe.  According to the International Energy Agency, the richest countries in the world of around 1 billion people consume 50% of the world’s energy, while the poorest 20% consume only 4%.  These patterns are clear on the energy consumption map.

NEXT TOPIC - GCSE - Overview Changing food demand



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