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LAC has second highest percentage of overweight children — FAO

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says nearly 40 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean are undernourished and that the region has the second highest percentage of overweight children in the world

FAO said that for the third consecutive year, there's an increase in the number of people suffering from hunger, noting that in the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, 39.3 million people live undernourished, an increase of 400, 000 people since 2016.

In its “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018 (SOFI)” report, the FAO notes that 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 said that the increase in hunger at the regional level follows the global trend and moves the region away from meeting the Sustainable Development Goal 2, which is 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).

In addition to the traditional hunger indicator, 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 per cent in 2016 to 9.8 per cent last year.

But the report notes that Latin America and the Caribbean has a very low rate of acute malnutrition in children (1.3 per cent), equivalent to 700 000 children under the age of five, well below the global average of 7.5 per cent.

The report notes that only one in every 100 children under five 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 per cent in 2012 to 9.6 per cent in 2017: today it affects 5.1 million children under five years of age in the region.”

But the report noted that the news is much less encouraging on the issue of obesity.

According to the SOFI, practically one out of every four inhabitants of Latin America and the Caribbean region lives with obesity. In 2016, obesity affected 24.1 per cent of the population, an increase of 2.4 per cent 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 said.

Latin America and the Caribbean has the second highest percentage of overweight children in the world estimated at 7.3 per cent, which is equivalent to 3.9 million girls and boys.

The FAO said that obesity in adults is also worsening globally with 672 million people are obese, more than one in eight adults.

The UN organisation notes that 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, utilisation 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 region's 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 per cent and 90 per cent of the agricultural harvest. More than 3.6 million people needed humanitarian aid as a result of this drought,” the FAO added.

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