GLOBAL Health organizations have reported that the ambitious goal to eradicate hunger by 2030 is becoming increasingly unobtainable as the number of people suffering in the region steadily increases.
A report published by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) warns that the situation in Latin America and the Caribbean has reversed decades of progress.
The worst situation in terms of prevalence of hunger is in Haiti, where 47 per cent of the population, approximately 5 million people, suffer from hunger. This number represents almost two-thirds of all the undernourishment across the countries of the Caribbean.
The Panorama of Food and Nutritional Security in Latin America and the Caribbean 2017, also highlights that after many years of gradual progress, approximately 42.5 million persons did not have enough food for their daily caloric needs in 2016.
This is an increase of 2.4 million persons, 6 per cent more of the undernourished population than the year before.
If this trend does not change “it will be very difficult for the region to reach Sustainable Development Goal 2 on eradicating hunger and malnutrition by 2030,” said Julio Berdegué, FAO Regional Representative.
While hunger levels remain low in Latin America and the Caribbean in comparison to the rest of the world, there are signs that the situation is getting worse, especially in South America, where hunger grew from 5 per cent in 2015 to 5.6 per cent in 2016.
In Mesoamerica, hunger affected 6.5 per cent of the population in 2016. Although hunger has not increased in the Caribbean, its prevalence is at 17.7 per cent, making it the sub-region with the greatest prevalence.
“We are heading along a bad path. The region has taken a significant step backwards in a fight that it was winning. We cannot tolerate the current levels of hunger and obesity, as they will paralyse the entire Latin American and Caribbean generation,” warned FAO Regional Representative, Julio Berdegué.
Only a few decades ago, governments of the region joined forces to fight against acute malnutrition, chronic malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency, today they must also fight against overweight and obesity.
“While malnutrition persists in the region, especially amongst vulnerable populations, it is now accompanied by overweight and obesity, affecting women more than anyone and also children”, affirmed PAHO Director, Carissa F. Etienne.
“The region faces a double burden of malnutrition, to fight against it, we must ensure access to a balanced diet and tackle the primary social factors that cause malnutrition, such as, the lack of access to healthy foods that are low in sugar, salt and fat, to water and sanitation, to education and health services and to social protection programmes, amongst others”, Etienne indicated.
To address this situation, FAO and PAHO call on countries to transform their food systems in order to stop the advancement of hunger and malnutrition, paying special attention to the condition of the most vulnerable people, homes and territories.
The publication highlights that only through a great regional effort can the current trend be reversed, to return on the path that made Latin America and the Caribbean a global example of the fight against hunger and malnutrition.
Despite the fact that hunger increased in six countries and fell in twenty-one, the absolute number of people suffering from hunger has increased.
Although hunger at the regional level has increased, 21 countries of the region have lowered their level of undernourishment, including the Caribbean and Mesoamerican as a whole, between 2013/2015 and 2014/2016.
In Brazil, Cuba and Uruguay, the prevalence of undernourishment is less than 2.5 per cent, while in Argentina, Barbados, Chile, Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago it is below 5 per cent.
Meanwhile, overweight affects all age groups in men and women, and constitutes a major health problem in all countries in the region of the Americas.