Latin America, Caribbean see acutest hunger in 15 years: UN

The number of people living with hunger increased by 13.8;million in just one year in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to a new UN report
A man offers food to a homeless person in Mexico City: Photo: istock
A man offers food to a homeless person in Mexico City: Photo: istock

The prevalence of hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) reached 9.1 per cent in 2020, the highest it has been in the last 15 years, according to a new United Nations report.

The prevalence of hunger in the region increased by 2 percentage points between 2019 and 2020. The number of people living with hunger increased by 13.8 million in just one year and reached a total of 59.7 million people, according to the report.

The LAC region comprises more than 30 countries, including Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia and small island developing states of the Caribbean and Central American countries.

The report, titled The Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2021 is a joint publication of various United Nations bodies.

According to the report, women are going hungrier than men across the region. Some 41.8 per cent of women experienced moderate or severe food insecurity in 2020, compared with 32.2 per cent of men.

This disparity has been rising in the last six years and it increased sharply to 9.6 per cent in 2020, from 6.4 per cent in 2019.

Julio Berdegue, FAO’s Regional Representative said:

We must say it loud and clear: LAC is facing a critical situation in terms of food security. There has been an almost 79 per cent hike in the number of people living in hunger from 2014 to 2020.

Mesoamerica experienced the largest increase in hunger of 2.5 percentage points between 2019 and 2020. It reached its highest value in the last 20 years — 10.6 per cent, or 19 million people.

The overall highest prevalence occurs in the Caribbean (16.1 percent, 7 million people) while in South America, hunger affects 33.7 million people or 7.8 per cent of the population, according to the report.

The prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity in South America increased by 20.5 percentage points between 2014 and 2020. There was an increase of 7.3 percentage points in Mesoamerica during the same period.

Another report from FAO had pointed out that climate change threatened the very basis of food security in LAC.

The joint UN report warned that the region was also losing the battle against other forms of malnutrition — 106 million people or one in every four adults, suffers from obesity in LAC.

But LAC has shown important progress in reducing stunting in children. Stunting in children reduced to 11.3 per cent from 18 per cent in 20 years.

The regional prevalence of wasting in children stands at 1.3 per cent, significantly lower than the world average of 6.7 per cent.

The joint UN report called for urgent action to arrest the rise in hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms.

It urged countries in the region to quickly take action to transform their agri-food systems and make them more efficient, resilient, inclusive and sustainable, to provide healthy diets for everyone.

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