Written by Staff Writer by Omar El Akkad, CNN New York
Droughts, deforestation and migration are among the reasons that hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean has increased nearly fivefold over the past 20 years, according to a new United Nations report.
About 9.7 million people, or 7.2% of the region’s population, are estimated to be suffering from hunger, up from 3.7 million in 2001, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said in its annual World Food Report, which is released in late July.
Despite widespread discussions about the need to curb hunger, and hunger reduction is in various national and intergovernmental institutions’ agendas, the issue is still pressing, which makes up one of the world’s largest killers, the report said.
“We have known for a long time that agriculture in Latin America and the Caribbean is struggling, but in the past 20 years we have seen a jump in hunger from one in 10 to more than 7% of the population,” FAO director-general José Graziano da Silva said in a statement.
It’s no coincidence that much of the region has been hit by droughts. It was hard hit by widespread flooding in the Yucatan Peninsula, the Yucatan Peninsula in 2008 and other parts of Latin America in 2015.
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“We are really urging farmers in the region to rethink production techniques, as well as land use, and use natural resources to produce enough food,” said Moya Mohamad, a senior agricultural economist at FAO.
“The current focus of Latin America and the Caribbean is on land to take advantage of some of the regions’ natural resources — high rainfall, forests and lush and fertile soils.”
Conversely, she said the situation has got worse in some regions as growing population pressures in the region and migration have led to conflict over land.
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Most Latin Americans and Caribbean citizens are poor, with one in six people living in a household that receives assistance of any kind, including humanitarian aid and cash transfers.
During the decade between 2001 and 2017, the United States led the world in hunger reduction, dropping four percentage points in the amount of people suffering from hunger. The other leading hunger-reduction states were Rwanda, India, China and Bangladesh.
Some 115 million people around the world suffer from hunger according to FAO’s definition.
Looking to the future, Mohamad believes the countries in the region will see a continued decrease in hunger as population growth declines. Also, the average number of years per capita of farm-produced food will increase, and that will make Latin America a net importer of food.