(CMC) – A new United Nations report states that 6.5 per cent of the population, or 43.2 million people, of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) suffers from hunger.
The Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2023 is a joint publication of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), the World Food Program (WFP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The report says that although this figure represents a slight improvement of 0.5 percentage points over the previous measurement, the prevalence of hunger in the region is still 0.9 percentage points above the 2019 records before the outbreak of COVID-19.
Moreover, the report says the scenario is disparate at the sub-regional level. In South America, the number of hungry people declined by 3.5 million between 2021 and 2022. However, there are 6 million additional undernourished people compared to the pre-COVID-19 scenario.
The report says the scenario is different in the Caribbean. In this subregion, 7.2 million people experienced hunger in 2022, with a prevalence of 16.3 per cent. Compared to 2021, this number increased by 700,000, the report says.
It says that between 2019 and 2022, the increase was one million people, with the highest prevalence in Haiti.
“The hunger figures in our region continue to be worrying,” said Mario Lubetkin, FAO’s assistant director-general and regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean.
“We see how we are moving further and further away from meeting the 2030 agenda, and we have not yet managed to improve the figures before the crisis unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our region has persistent challenges such as inequality, poverty, and climate change, which have reversed progress in the fight against hunger for at least 13 years,” he added. “This scenario obliges us to work together and act as soon as possible.”
Lola Castro, WFP’s regional director, said that “it is necessary to keep people at the centre of all solutions to food insecurity and malnutrition, particularly in the current context of climate emergency.
“In support of regional governments, we are promoting actions that protect the most vulnerable people and transform food systems to make them more resilient, as well as accompanying efforts through holistic public policies to promote healthy and affordable diets,” she added.
The report also says that, in 2022, 247.8 million people in the region experienced moderate or severe food insecurity. That is, they were forced to reduce the quality or quantity of the food they consumed or even went without food, went hungry, and, in the most extreme case, went days without eating, putting their health and well-being at serious risk.
This figure represents a decrease of 16.5 million from 2021, the report says.
In South America, it says more than a third (36.4 per cent) of the population suffered moderate or severe food insecurity. In Mesoamerica, the report says the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity reached 34.5 per cent in 2022, which represented an increase of 0.4 percentage points, or 1.3 million additional people, compared to 2021.
In the Caribbean, meanwhile, during 2022, 60.6 per cent of the population experienced moderate or severe food insecurity, the report says.
It notes that inequalities in Latin America and the Caribbean significantly impact the food security of the most vulnerable people.
The report says the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity continues to affect women more than men.
“In 2022, moderate or severe food insecurity in rural areas was 8.3 percentage points higher than in urban areas. Once again, it is the rural populations who are left behind, and that is why we must prioritise them in programs and public policies,” said Rossana Polastri, IFAD’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean.
The report says Latin America and the Caribbean is increasingly facing the complex problem of malnutrition, which encompasses both undernutrition – stunting, childhood wasting, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies – and overweight and obesity.
According to the report, the region experienced an increase in the prevalence of overweight in children under 5 between 2000 and 2022 and the prevalence of obesity in adults between 2000 and 2016, in both cases exceeding the global average.
Between 2020 and 2022, in the context of the pandemic, the report says the prevalence of overweight in children under 5 years of age increased slightly from 8.3 per cent to 8.6 per cent, with a more significant increase in South America, a milder increase in Mesoamerica and remaining stable in the Caribbean.
“Overweight and obesity are a growing challenge, responsible for approximately 2.8 million deaths” from noncommunicable diseases in 2021 in the Americas, said Dr Jarbas Barbosa, PAHO director.
“In the last 50 years, overweight and obesity rates tripled, affecting 62.5 per cent of the population in the region,” he added and considered the regional prevalence of overweight in children and adolescents at 33.6 per cent higher than the world average. “It is urgent to advance in the transformation of food systems to ensure healthy eating for all.”