Latin America and the Caribbean is the world’s first region to reach both international hunger goals

Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has made a huge step towards the total eradication of hunger by reducing both the percentage and total number of undernourished people to less than half, according to FAO’s latest report, the Panorama of Food Insecurity in Latin America and the Caribbean 2015, released today.

According to the report, in 1990-92, LAC began the challenge of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with 14.7% of its population affected by hunger: in 2014-16 this prevalence has already fallen to 5.5%, meaning that the region has already achieved the MDG on hunger.

The region also met the goal of the World Food Summit (WFS), having reduced the total number of undernourished people to 34.3 million.

“The region’s success story is based on the positive macroeconomic situation during the past two decades and the solid and continued political commitment of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean with the eradication of hunger,” said Raul Benitez, FAO’s Regional Representative.

The FAO report notes that regional progress is mainly due to the success of the Southern Cone countries, and adds that the commitment to hunger can be seen throughout the region: seventeen countries achieved the hunger goal of the MDGs (more than in any other region of the planet), while eleven countries reached the WFS target.

Benitez said that thanks to economic growth, increased public spending on social matters and public policies focused on the most vulnerable, Latin America and the Caribbean today represents a smaller share of global hunger.

Highlights on the progress of Barbados

  • Barbados is one of six Caribbean countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goal on Hunger. The other countries are Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guyana, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname.
    Barbados has kept the prevalence of undernourishment below 5% since 1990-1992, except during 2003-2005, when it rose to 6% before falling again during the next triennium.
  • Unemployment, which has been on the rise since 2007, along with growing inequality and poverty, present significant challenges for the food and nutrition security of the country.
  • Despite the sluggish economic context, Barbados maintains a food supply of 3,111 calories per person per day, surpassing the minimum requirements of its population.
  • Obesity, however is a growing concern. 33.4% of the adult population is overweight or obese, with the prevalence in women (44.2%) doubling that of men (21.6%) (WHO).
  • Barbados is a net agrifood importer. Between 2010 and 2012, agriculture contributed to only 1.2% of GDP and agricultural GDP decreased by 5.3% over the same period.
  • In recent years, support for agricultural production has increased so as to ensure food and nutrition security and economic diversification. The State has focused mainly on three areas: arable land, credit and financing, and machinery.
  • The Land for the Landless Programme, the Tractor Cultivation Scheme and financing schemes for productive agricultural enterprises provided through the Agricultural Development Fund (ADF), are some of the ways through which farmers, producers and enterprises are able to contribute to the food and nutrition security of the country.

Latin America and the Caribbean “up’s” the ante: not simply to reduce but to fully eradicate hunger

According to the FAO publication, the region pioneered the proposal not only to decrease but fully eradicate hunger, through the Hunger Free Latin America and Caribbean Initiative, which has been endorsed by all countries in the region since the year 2005.

Many agreements and alliances have been formed to work towards the same goal, such as Hunger Free Mesoamerica and the Hunger and the Hugo Chavez Hunger and Poverty Eradication Plan in the countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA, in Spanish) and Petrocaribe, as well as outstanding national projects and policies such as Zero Poverty in Brazil and the Mexico without Hunger Crusade.

The culmination of this process of political commitment over the past two decades was the adoption by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC, in Spanish) -the main regional integration body- of its Plan for Food Security, Nutrition and Hunger Eradication, in January 2015.

This plan seeks to promote and boost regional efforts and has set 2025 as the deadline for regional hunger eradication. “The CELAC Plan represents a one of a kind commitment and can be one of the factors that may lead the current generation to be the last to live with hunger,” said Benitez.

The Panorama report notes that the approach in the fight against hunger has evolved from a unisectorial approach to one that is cross-sectorial. This has allowed countries to meet the needs of their populations both in the short and medium term, addressing the various causes of hunger with the participation of all stakeholders.

Large differences between subregions

Although the region as a whole has been the first in the world to achieve both goals on hunger, progress has been different in each subregion and at the country level.

South America is the subregion that made the most progress both in reducing the number of undernourished people as well as its prevalence. However, it should be noted that the largest number of undernourished people live in this subregion, whose population amounts to 65.9% of the regional total.

Central America has succeeded in reducing hunger from 12.6 million in 1990-92 to 11.4 million in 2014-2016, a reduction from 10.7% to 6.6% of the population in the same period. However, it is important to note that hunger reduction in absolute terms has stagnated since 2013.

The Caribbean has made the least progress: currently 7.5 million people suffer from undernourishment in this subregion. This figure has shown little progress since the 1990-92 period, when hunger affected 8.1 million people. The prevalence of undernourishment fell only 7.2 percentage points, from 27% in 1990-92 to 19.8% in 2014-16.

This is due, in large part, to the situation of Haiti: the country accounts for 75% of the undernourished population in the Caribbean and faces the most critical situation in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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