International

Socio-economic inequality raises levels of hunger in Latin America, Caribbean

Indigenous people suffer greater food insecurity than non-indigenous populations

Rome.

Hunger, malnutrition, lack of micro-nutrients, overweight and obesity have greater impact on people with lower income, women, indigenous people, Afro-descendants and rural families in Latin America and the Caribbean, a new UN report has said.

The Panorama of Food and Nutrition Security 2018 report focuses on the close linkages between economic and social inequality and the higher levels of hunger, obesity and malnutrition of the most vulnerable populations of the region.

According to the report, published on Wednesday, in Latin America, 8.4 per cent of women live in severe food insecurity, compared to 6.9 per cent of men.

Indigenous populations generally suffer greater food insecurity than non-indigenous people.

In ten countries, children from the poorest 20 per cent of households suffer three times more stunting than the richest 20 per cent.

The Panorama indicates that one of the main causes of the rise of malnutrition in vulnerable population groups are the changes that the region’s food systems – the cycle of food from production to consumption – have undergone.

These changes have affected the entire population, but the most excluded members of society have suffered the worst effects.

Many have increased their consumption of healthy foods such as milk and meat, often they must opt for cheap products with high fat, sugar and salt content.

To respond to growing malnutrition, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Food Program (WFP), call on countries to implement public policies that combat inequality and promote healthy and sustainable food systems.

Obesity has become the greatest nutritional threat in Latin America and the Caribbean. Nearly one in four adults is obese. Overweight affects 7.3 per cent (3.9 million) of children under 5 years of age, a figure that exceeds the world average of 5.6 per cent, the Panorama report indicates.

"Obesity is growing uncontrollably. Each year we are adding 3.6 million obese people to this region. 250 million people live with overweight, 60 percent of the regional population. The situation is appalling," said FAO’s Regional Representative Julio Berdegue.

"Although undernourishment persists in the region, particularly in vulnerable populations, we must also consider obesity and overweight, which also affect these groups. A multisectoral approach is needed, one that ensures access to balanced and healthy foods while addressing other social factors that also impact on these forms of malnutrition, such as access to education, water and sanitation, and health services", said Carissa F. Etienne, Director of PAHO/WHO.

"We must advance access to universal healthcare so that all people can receive the care and prevention measures they need due to malnutrition and its long-term consequences", she added.

"Gender equity is a valuable policy instrument to reduce inequalities We need to strengthen it in practice, which involves promoting equality in access and control of household resources, as well as in decisions to empower women in inequality", said Miguel Barreto, Regional Director of WFP for Latin America and the Caribbean.

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