Tuvalu is a group of nine tiny islands in the South Pacific which won independence from the United Kingdom in 1978. Five of the islands are coral atolls, the other four consist of land rising from the sea bed.
All are low-lying, with no point on Tuvalu being higher than 4.5 metres above sea level. Local politicians have campaigned against global warming, arguing that climate change could see the islands swamped by rising sea levels.
Life on the islands is simple and often harsh. There are no streams or rivers, so the collection of rain is essential.
- Politics: Gained independence from Britain in 1978
- Economy: Tuvalu has few natural resources and imports most of its food
- International: Tuvalu campaigns against global warming as it is low-lying and vulnerable to rising sea levels
Country profile compiled by BBC Monitoring
Coconut palms cover most of the islands, and copra - dried coconut kernel - is practically the only export commodity. Increasing salination of the soil threatens traditional subsistence farming.
Tuvalu depends on foreign aid, the income from the sale of tuna fishing licences and the interest from a trust fund set up in 1987. The sale of postage stamps also brings in revenues.
It is one of a handful of countries to have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which has funded the construction of Tuvalu's largest building - a three-storey administrative headquarters.
It is also one of only about half-a-dozen countries to have recognised the independence of Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Tuvalu has shown ingenuity by exploiting another source of income. It has sold its internet suffix - .tv - to a Californian company for several million dollars a year in continuing revenue. The company sells the suffix on to television broadcasters.
Some of the money has been used to pave roads - which were formerly made of crushed coral - and to build schools.