Inequalities increase hunger and obesity in Latin America

Inequalities increase hunger and obesity in Latin America
With 600,000 more people from 2014 to 2015, Venezuela leads the growth of undernourished people, with 3.7 million (11.7% of the population), followed by Argentina and Bolivia, where the increase was 0.1% in both countries. Photo File LN

With 600,000 more people from 2014 to 2015, Venezuela leads the growth of undernourished people, with 3.7 million (11.7% of the population), followed by Argentina and Bolivia, where the increase was 0.1% in both countries. Photo File LN

Santiago, Chile. Far from shrinking, hunger and obesity are increasing in Latin America, particularly in Venezuela, Argentina and Bolivia.

In 2017 there were 39.3 million undernourished people and another 3.6 million were incorporated into the obesity epidemic, the United Nations warned on Wednesday.

"For the third year in a row we have to give them bad news: hunger figures in Latin America and the Caribbean have increased," rising to 39.3 million in Latin America, said the FAO regional director, Julio Berdegué, at the presentation of the Panorama of the Food and Nutritional Security 2018, prepared by four UN agencies.

7.9% of the population of the region and the Caribbean is in serious food insecurity, which means 47.1 million people, almost five million more than in the previous triennium, warns the report, of which 29 million They are in South America.

Meanwhile, the "epidemic" of obesity is still unstoppable: 104.7 million adults in the region are obese, almost a quarter of the population.

"There are no technical or material reasons" for this increase in hunger and malnutrition, Berdegué recalled.

The poorest are the main victims of both malnutrition and obesity, particularly women, indigenous people, people of African descent and rural populations.

In ten countries, 20% of the poorest children suffer three times more chronic malnutrition than the richest 20%. "We are condemning them to a tremendously difficult future," said Berdegué.

For example, in Bolivia, 25% of Quechua children and 23% of Aymara children suffer chronic undernourishment.

With 600,000 more people from 2014 to 2015, Venezuela leads the growth of undernourished people, with 3.7 million (11.7% of the population), followed by Argentina and Bolivia, where the increase was 0.1% in both countries.

Only Haiti, Mexico, Colombia and the Dominican Republic have reduced hunger since 2014.

Eleven other countries remain unchanged, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras or Peru. Only Brazil, Cuba and Uruguay have percentages of hunger below 2.5% of their population.

Prepared by the Organization of the United Nations for Food and Agriculture (FAO), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the World Food Program (WFP), The report points to the changes that the food systems of the region have suffered.

"Healthy eating, a privilege

In a region that is the world's agricultural pantry, many people do not have access to fresh or expensive fruits and vegetables, so people with fewer resources often opt for products high in fat, sugar and salt, which are cheaper.

By way of example, 27% of Chile's population does not have the money to buy a healthy basket, recalled the FAO official.

The consequence is that Chilean women lead the list of obesity in South America and Chilean men occupy the second place, behind the Argentines, in the classification by gender.

"Healthy eating continues to be a privilege and must be a human right," said UNICEF regional director Maria Cristina Perceval from Panama.

You earn more but you eat worse

Reversing the problem combines public policies, commitment of food companies and education of the population, specialists recognize.

"Governments have a primary responsibility: eradicating hunger or controlling an epidemic such as obesity can not be left alone to civil society or companies, leadership must come from governments," Berdegué said.

And this leadership goes through taxing junk food, regulating the content of harmful ingredients in processed food and undertaking education campaigns in schools to integrate healthy diets into diets.

The companies "have to take charge of their responsibility" for the foods that they place on the shelves of the supermarkets, the main causes of obesity, recalls Berdegué.

And all agree that civil society has to put something on their side: "People earn more but eat worse, so the problem is a change in behavior," said the representative of the PAM, Miguel Barreto, from Panama.

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