Sat. Jan 18th, 2020

Hunger rises for the fourth consecutive year and obesity does not yield in Latin America



Hunger rose for the fourth consecutive year in Latin America in 2018 and affected 6.5% of the population in the region, where obesity continues to rise and already afflicts one in four adults, FAO warned Tuesday.

After significantly reducing the number of people who go hungry between 2000 and 2014, the problem has rebounded in the last four years and in 2018 there were 42.5 million undernourished, said the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO ).

The figures are part of the report "Panorama of food and nutrition security in Latin America and the Caribbean 2019", prepared together with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), UNICEF and the World Food Program (WFP) and presented this Tuesday at the FAO regional headquarters, in Santiago.

"We did a formidable work between 2000 and 2014, we were an exemplary region … but from 2014 onwards things are going badly," said FAO regional representative Julio Berdegué when presenting the report.

Haiti is the country with the most hungry region, almost half of its population (49.3%), although in absolute terms, Venezuela is the country where malnutrition has increased the most, which went from 2.9 million people between 2013-2015 to 6.8 million in the 2016-2018 period.

The head of FAO said that the "most positive side" of the report is that most Latin American countries continue to make progress, although slowly, in reducing hunger.

The figures, however, show great heterogeneity in that struggle. Among the countries that reduced it, the case of Colombia stands out, which went from 3.6 to 2.4 million people in the last two years.

Berdegué attributed that achievement to the peace agreements between the Colombian Government and the FARC guerrillas. "When there is conflict, hunger increases; when there is peace, it decreases," he said.

The countries with the lowest percentage of malnourished, below 2.5% of the population, are Brazil, Cuba and Uruguay. Chile is close to this group with a hunger prevalence of 2.7%, the report said.

FAO recommended that countries promote healthier food environments to mitigate the rise of overweight and obesity, which in recent years have become a real scourge for the Latin American population.

The report noted that 24% of the adult population in the region, about 105 million people, suffer from obesity, almost twice the world average, which is 13.2%.

And for every person who is hungry in Latin America and the Caribbean, more than six suffer from overweight or obesity, a problem that is increasing in all population groups, especially in adults and school-age children.

"The explosive increase in obesity not only has huge economic costs, but it threatens the lives of hundreds of thousands of people," said the FAO regional representative.

According to the report, every year 600,000 people die in Latin America and the Caribbean due to diseases related to poor diet, such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular ailments.

The region has poor indicators of malnutrition related to excessive calorie intake, since overweight has doubled since the 1970s and currently affects 59.5% of adults, almost twenty points higher than the global average.

This is mainly due to the increase in sales of ultraprocessed foods and fast food, which increase the population's exposure to excessive amounts of sugar, sodium and fat.

FAO stressed that several countries in the region have public policies to achieve healthier eating.

Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay, for example, have implemented food labeling laws that allow consumers to make better decisions at the time of purchase.

And Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Panama and Uruguay have improved regulation on food advertising, while at least 13 countries in the region have adopted fiscal and social measures that seek to favor adequate food.

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