For the third consecutive year, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced an increase in the number of people suffering from hunger.
In the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, 39.3 million people live undernourished in the region, an increase of 400 000 people since 2016.
According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018 (SOFI), globally almost 821 million people – approximately one in nine- were victims of hunger in 2017, an increase of 17 million in relation to the previous year.
“In the region we are stuck in the fight against hunger. In 2014, hunger affected 38.5 million and in 2017 it exceeded 39 million. These figures are a strong and clear call to redouble efforts at all levels,” said FAO’s Regional Representative, Julio Berdegué.
Berdegué explained that the increase in hunger at the regional level follows the global trend and moves us away from meeting the Sustainable Development Goal 2— Zero Hunger by 2030.
This year’s SOFI was developed by FAO together with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Program (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO)
The experience of food insecurity
In addition to the traditional hunger indicator reported by the SOFI (undernourishment), this year, for the second time, the report presents an indicator of severe food insecurity, based on household surveys.
According to this measurement, severe food insecurity in 2017 is higher than in 2014 in all regions, except North America and Europe, with notable increases in Africa and Latin America.
In Latin America, severe food insecurity jumped from 7.6 % in 2016 to 9.8 % in 2017.
Acute and chronic malnutrition in children
Good news for the region is that it has a very low rate of acute malnutrition in children (1.3 %), equivalent to 700 000 children under the age of five, well below the global average of 7.5 %. Only one in every 100 children under 5 years of age in Latin America and the Caribbean suffers from this condition.
The chronic malnutrition of girls and boys has also fallen, from 11.4 % in 2012 to 9.6 % in 2017: today it affects 5.1 million children under five years of age in the region.
Obesity affects almost one in four inhabitants
The news is much less encouraging on the issue of obesity. According to the SOFI, practically one out of every four inhabitants of the region lives with obesity: in 2016, obesity affected 24.1 % of the population, an increase of 2.4 % since 2012.
“In 2016 there were 104.7 million adults with obesity in our region. But there was a gigantic increase – of more than 16 million- in just four years. It is an epidemic that, despite repeated warnings from FAO and PAHO/WHO, continues to be out of control, with enormous effects on the health of people and the economy of the countries,” Berdegué warned.
Latin America and the Caribbean has the second highest percentage of overweight children in the world (7.3 %), which is equivalent to 3.9 million girls and boys.
Obesity in adults is also worsening globally: 672 million people are obese, more than one in eight adults.
Climate impacts food security
In addition to conflicts, variability and extreme weather conditions are among the key factors in the recent increase in world hunger.
According to the SOFI, the cumulative effect of changes in climate is undermining all dimensions of food security, including food availability, access, utilization and stability.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, this was clearly seen in the Dry Corridor of Central America, particularly in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, one of the regions most affected by the drought caused by the El Niño phenomenon in 2015-16.
The drought was one of the worst in the last 10 years and resulted in significant reductions in agricultural production, with estimated losses of between 50 % and 90 % of the agricultural harvest. More than 3.6 million people needed humanitarian aid as a result of this drought.