UN Report: 131 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean cannot access a healthy diet

Photo credit: Karina Shilongo

The region has the highest cost for a healthy diet compared to the rest of the world, at USD 3.89 per person per day, while the world average is USD 3.54.

The new United Nations report Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2022 finds that 22.5% of the Latin America and the Caribbean population cannot afford a healthy diet. In the Caribbean this figure reaches 52%; in Mesoamerica, 27.8%; and in South America, 18.4%. It should be noted that the high figure in the Caribbean is mainly attributed to the inclusion of Haiti, which has the highest level of undernourishment and food insecurity in the region.

The publication reports that 131.3 million people in the region could not afford a healthy diet in 2020. This represents an increase of 8 million compared to 2019 and is due to the higher average daily cost of healthy diets in Latin America and the Caribbean compared to the rest of the world’s regions, reaching in the Caribbean a value of USD 4.23, followed by South America and Mesoamerica with USD 3.61 and USD 3.47, respectively.

This problem is related to different socioeconomic and nutritional indicators. The report presents a clear relationship between the inability to afford a healthy diet and such variables as a country’s income level, the incidence of poverty, and the level of inequality.

The report also reveals that the rise in international food prices experienced since 2020,  exacerbated after the start of the conflict in Ukraine, and a regional increase in food inflation above the general level, have increased the difficulties for people to access a healthy diet.

The document also includes recommendations based on evidence and an analysis of policies already implemented to improve the availability and affordability of nutritious foods, focusing on supporting the most vulnerable people and low-income households that spend a more significant proportion of their budget on food.

“There is no individual policy that can solve this problem independently. National and regional coordination mechanisms need to be strengthened to respond to hunger and malnutrition,” said Mario Lubetkin, FAO Assistant Director and Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean.

“To contribute to the affordability of healthy diets, it is necessary to create incentives for the diversification of the production of nutritious foods aimed mainly at family farming and small-scale producers, take measures for the transparency of the prices of these foods in markets and trade, and actions such as cash transfers and improving school menus,” Lubetkin concluded.

Trade and market policies can play a fundamental role in improving food security and nutrition. Greater transparency and efficiency improve inter-regional agri-food trade by replacing uncertainty with market predictability and stability.

“We are talking about the region of the world with the most expensive healthy diet, which particularly affects vulnerable populations – small farmers, rural women, and indigenous and Afro-descendant populations – who allocate a greater percentage of their income to the purchase of food,” said IFAD Regional Director Rossana Polastri. “To reverse this situation, we must promote innovative solutions that diversify production and increase the supply of healthy food, and that improve small producers’ access to markets and quality food, including digital solutions that articulate food supply and demand.”

The report also describes how some nutrition-sensitive social protection programs have worked and are essential to support the diets of the most vulnerable population, particularly in periods of crisis.

“Food insecurity will continue to rise due to the food and fuel price crisis caused by the conflict in Ukraine and the aftermath of COVID-19,” said Lola Castro, WFP Regional Director. “We must act now, but how can we do it? Supporting governments to expand social protection networks because the pandemic once again demonstrated that social protection is useful to improve the affordability of a healthy diet, preventing crises like this from hitting affected populations even more”.

Other food policies, such as nutritional labelling, subsidizing nutritious foods, and taxing unhealthy or non-nutritious foods that do not contribute to healthy diets, if well designed, can improve the affordability of healthy diets and prevent debilitating conditions and diseases related to overweight and obesity.

“We must redouble efforts to address malnutrition in all its forms by promoting public policies to create healthy food environments, eliminate industrially produced trans fats, implement front-end warning labeling, regulate advertising of unhealthy foods, tax sugary drinks, and support healthy eating and physical activity in schools,” PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne said. “Understanding the factors that determine poor dietary practices is key to finding solutions and ensuring that everyone in the region has access to healthy foods,” she said.

For example, countries with higher levels of poverty and inequality tend to have more significant difficulties accessing a healthy diet, which is directly associated with a higher prevalence of hunger, chronic malnutrition in boys and girls, and anemia in women aged 15 to 49.

“For children to grow up healthy, it is not only urgent to ensure the availability of nutritious food at affordable prices. It is also necessary to develop public policies that guarantee adequate nutrition, in addition to nutritional counseling, focusing actions on the most vulnerable populations,” said Garry Conelly, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The socioeconomic panorama of Latin America and the Caribbean is not encouraging. The most affected population groups are children under five and women, who suffer a higher prevalence of food insecurity than men.

The Regional Panorama of Food and Nutrition Security 2022 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 United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).


The number of hungry people in the region continues to rise

Between 2019 and 2021, the number of hungry people in the region increased by 13.2 million, reaching 56.5 million hungry people in 2021. The highest increase was in South America, where an additional 11 million people suffered from hunger. Between 2019 and 2021, hunger reached a prevalence of 7.9% in South America, 8.4% in Mesoamerica, and 16.4% in the Caribbean.

In 2021, 40.6% of the regional population experienced moderate or severe food insecurity, compared to 29.3% worldwide. Severe food insecurity was also more frequent in the region (14.2%) than in the world (11.7%).

Other figures presented in the report indicate that the region registers an important and positive evolution regarding the prevalence of chronic malnutrition in children under five years of age. In 2020, this figure was 11.3% in Latin America and the Caribbean, approximately ten percentage points below the world average. However, 3.9 million children up to five years of age are overweight.

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  1. Lin clown
    January 24, 2023

    I agree with ds,these people are true bums.Just look at what UWP spokesperson SHAM DOUGLAS did to the bums.He told them the 2022 election was a sham,immoral and a disrespect to Dominicans.Today he is a senator in the sham house of parliament,while the aholes are in the yard. Shameless BUMS they are.

  2. Lin clown
    January 24, 2023

    They are not only bums,they are aholes too,and surely they do not live in Dominica.Dominicans can choose what the want to eat,Instead they go for the junk and fatty foods.Only a Jacka will not know that.Dominicans cannot afford what?out of a population of 72,000,Dominica has more than 37,000 registered vehicles,and very few people pay house rent.Not only that, Skerrit raised the minimum wage by almost 100%.Wicked,lying and fake news UWP fit for the D house shameless crooks and traitors.

  3. Lin clown
    January 23, 2023

    These UWP supporters are liars.Unlike North America,Dominica can boast of FRESH fruits and vegetables year round.In Canada and New York people have access to FRESH fruits and vegetables for about 3 months of the year,for the rest of the year all fruits and vegetables are REFRIDGERATED.The problem with Dominicans is that they prefere the junk food coming from North America and don’t know how to put a proper diet together.Dominicans cannot consume the amount of fruits and vegetables they grow.There is no malnutrition in Dominica and not even the street people go hungry.Dominica’s other problem is obesity too many big bottom and big legs.We eat too much of one thing.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6
    • If we knew better
      January 25, 2023

      When you die, your last words will be either workers or UWP. Dont you know there is a new opposition. You think the people who did the research only spoke to uwp supporters and they told lies? If i dont own a farm or have a garden i work 8-10 hrs a day, where can a get a decent vegetarian meal? or just a wholesome meal what isnt overpriced. Where can i get a proper meal in Roseau past 6pm? a head of lettuce is 5 dollars. our food providers all want to cook the same thing. all want to operate at the same times. as someone who has changed his diet recently, i can say it is extremely hard here in Dominica unless is fig and dasheen but i not eating that every day. You talking about junk food from america, do you know there are also healthy food and snacks from America? more and more you show your ignorance through the use of your fingers.

  4. Zandoli
    January 23, 2023

    That does not surprise me in the least. Most people in most parts of the world cannot access proper nutritional foods, even here in North America.
    I do most of the food shopping and at first I would make choices on fruits and vegetables based on value for money. For example when the price of lettuce shot up a couple months ago, I switched to watercress. The prices of fruits are as high as I have ever seen them. My philosophy now is that, either I pay the price for healthy foods now, or pay the price in adverse health outcomes later. Fortunately for my family, we can afford to make that choice. There are many people who do not have that option.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0
  5. Truth Be Told
    January 23, 2023

    While most of their leaders bigging-up themselves and talking nonsense to get re-elected while feeding them rubbish!
    Zor kay sousay sel api ham avec turkey with KFC, cancer and obesity!

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3
    • January 23, 2023

      Here we go again. Skerrit to blame. You all are nothing but bums, UWP bums.

    • January 23, 2023

      Is that really the truth be told or the false be told? Why don’t you big up yourself too and suck a modicum of salt.

      • Ibo France
        January 24, 2023

        Change your alias from ds to bs. You chat a lot of it.You are the epitome of an empty vessel.

        We can nurture our mind to be beautiful gardens or we can let them grow wild weeds. Your mind, bs, is the latter.

  6. The Truth
    January 23, 2023

    That’s particularly true with us in Dominica where 95% sure can’t afford a healthy diet. Apart for Skerrit, his family and those few enablers others sure can’t afford a good healthy meal.To make matters worse except for Skerrit and his family the rest of us don’t have health insurance ant can’t fly out in the event of health emergency and that’s why Skerrit during the 2019 elections was able to boast of health insurance for he and his family and mocked the rest of that couldn’t afford. That was in 2019 which makes it 4 yrs later and nothing has changed and the liar said he retiring in 2.5 yrs time

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2
  7. Ibo France
    January 23, 2023

    This is not news that the majority of people living in Latin America and the Caribbean are just subsisting. These people cannot afford even three unbalanced meals per day.

    I once met a middle aged woman shopping in a supermarket. She took some poor quality food items from the shelf. Somehow she became self conscious as I stood next to her. The lady then watched me and mouthed these words, “All me want is a belly full.”

    Her statement brought home to me the reality of the day tho day life of many in society. Food insecurity is a humongous problem out there.

    What troubles me most is that the country has enough resources to lift the standard of living for all once distributed equitably. The problem is that the ruling oligarchs hog the best and the most resources for themselves and their diehards.

    We need a bloodless revolution to change the downward trajectory of Dominica.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3
    • January 23, 2023

      Here goes the bums one more time. Skerrit to blame.

      • Marie
        January 24, 2023

        YOU are the biggest bum on this platform by far. YOU are as crazy as they come! Get out of here, Toilet Duck.

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