Malnutrition and extreme poverty are on rise in Latin America
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Malnutrition and extreme poverty are on rise in Latin America

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicates that Latin American countries do not devote special attention to nutrition and children’s education, and highlighted that obesity is on the rise in the Caribbean.

The reason for this is said to be a result from the “brutal” concentration of resources, according to the director general of the FAO, José Graziano da Silva.

The Brazilian official, who travels to Mexico on Saturday next week to participate in a regional conference, said in an interview with Efe that Latin America “is performing very badly in nutrition”.

“We have seen growing obesity especially in the Caribbean, but also in Mexico and countries in South America, especially among children and women,” he said.

Poor diet and obesity

Obesity affects 22 percent of the regional population, and about four million children are overweight.

In Da Silva’s view, countries neither devote special attention to nutrition, nor limit the content of salt, sugar and fat in foods on the market.

However, the region has still not met with targets to reduce the number of hungry people by at least half, up to 34.3 million, according to the latest FAO estimates.

In relation to those who still suffer food insecurity, Da Silva believes that hunger in the region “is associated with extreme poverty”, linked in turn to the uneven distribution of wealth.

The director general also emphasized that there was “a brutal concentration of the means of production, especially in access to land and water.”

As in the rest of the world, hunger in Latin America preys on the rural population and is related to “the possibility that this population could attain a minimum level of income,” said Da Silva, who expressed concern about the growing number of young people entering the labor market at the risk of working without rights.

This reality coexists in Latin America with economic growth during recent years, driven by mineral exports from Chile or Peru and agricultural commodities from countries such as Argentina or Brazil.

According to Da Silva, Paraguay is a dramatic example of this contrast “which has achieved impressive progress, but the pockets of extreme poverty still continue and access to land and irrigation has not improved.”

Changes afoot

Rural development and social inclusion are on the cards for the meeting with government representatives in Mexico, as well as the possible extension of the coverage of FAO in countries such as those in the Caribbean, which are among the most affected by climate change and the El Niño climate phenomenon.

The FAO currently faces tough challenges to achieve the transformation of the rural sector and the sustainable use of natural resources as well as water management and adaptation to climate change.

“Transforming the rural sector means ensuring their quality of life, giving it high priority in investment and financing policies, and creating coordinated multisectoral strategies for rural development with a territorial approach, allowing the creation of opportunities for all.”

See also:

Processed food consumption on the up in Latin America

Mexico’s soft drink tax a success