Speaking at the recent launch of “The 2018 Panorama of Food and Nutrition Security” report in Santiago, Chile, Julio Berdegue, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) regional representative, said it was an “appalling” threat to health overall, affecting women and indigenous groups the most.
“The Panorama”, published annually by FAO, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Program (WFP), explores strategies to halt the health threats posed by hunger and malnutrition in the Caribbean and Latin America.
According to the report, hunger, malnutrition, lack of micronutrients and obesity largely affect lower income families, women, indigenous communities, Afro-descendants and rural families.
The report stated that the principal causes of malnutrition among the most vulnerable can be traced to changes the food systems have experienced in the region, from production to consumption.With a greater strain on the demand for nutrient-rich food like milk and meats, the report stated, many resort to less costly options, which are often higher in fat, sugar and salt.
“Obesity is growing uncontrollably,” Berdegue said.
Maria Cristina Perceval, who serves at the director for UNICEF in the region, said stunting correlates closely to inequality and poverty levels, adding that being chronically overweight “is also increasingly affecting the poorest children.”She underscored that lower income families have unequal access to healthy diets.
The report stated that obesity has become the greatest threat to the Caribbean and Latin America when it comes to nutritional health conditions.Nearly one in four adults are obese and more than seven percent of children below age five are overweight – higher than the global average of 5.6 percent, the report states.
To address the exacerbation of hunger and obesity, a “multispectoral approach is needed,” said Dominican-born PAHO Director Dr. Carissa Etienne, adding that the solution requires addressing social factors, just as well as water quality and access to health services.