(CNN Spanish) — In Latin America and the Caribbean, 56.5 million people suffered from hunger in 2021, some 13.2 million more than in 2019, before the pandemic. Of that number, 34 million people lived in South America, according to a United Nations report.
The figures on hunger, malnutrition and food security in the region were presented this Wednesday in the United Nations report Food and Nutrition Security Panorama 2022. This report indicates that worldwide hunger has increased in recent years and in 2021 it was between 8.9% and 10.5%. For that year, it was estimated that 9.8% of the world population was undernourished. The figure is more alarming in Latin America and the Caribbean, where hunger reached 8.6% of the population in 2021, the highest figure for almost 15 years.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO, undernourishment means that a person “cannot acquire enough food to meet minimum daily dietary energy needs for a period of at least one year.” Hunger is synonymous with chronic malnutrition, according to the FAO.
Some figures on food insecurity
Globally, 768 million people in the world suffered from hunger worldwide in 2021, an increase of 24% compared to 2019: 150 million more people suffered from hunger in the last two years.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, in 2021, 56.5 million people suffered from hunger, some 13.2 million more than before the pandemic, in 2019. Of that number, 34 million people lived in South America, according to the report by fao. The number doubled from 2015, when 17.2 million were registered.
Now, broken down by country, Venezuela (22.9%), Ecuador (15.4%) and Bolivia (13.9%) had the highest undernourishment figures in the region.
The case of Venezuela is perhaps the most alarming, since between the periods 2013-2015 and 2019-2021, hunger increased 18.4 percentage points, affecting 5 million more people. Currently there are 6.5 million people who have “prevalence of malnutrition”, according to the report. In the case of Ecuador, hunger increased 6.7 percentage points (affecting 1.3 million more people).
In countries like Colombia, Paraguay and Peru, the prevalence of undernourishment exceeded 8% and in the case of Brazil, although it had one of the lowest rates of undernourished people (4.1%), the country had the highest number of them , reaching 8.6 million people who suffer to obtain food.
- In South America, in Peru, about half of the population experiences moderate or severe food insecurity.
- In Argentina, Ecuador and Suriname, this condition affects almost 37% of the population.
- In South America, undernourishment increased by 47.2% between 2019 and 2021, that is, 11 million more people.
- In 2021, 40% of the population of South America faced moderate or severe food insecurity, compared to the world average for that year of 29.3%.
How did we get here?
The United Nations report indicates that food insecurity in Latin America and the Caribbean was affected between 2019 and 2021, especially by the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic, and that in the region “it was greater than the increase at the global level “.
“Serious food insecurity has increased at a faster rate in South America, where it has tripled since 2014, from 22 million to 65.6 million people,” says the report, which adds that in just two years, between 2019 and 2021, “severe food insecurity increased by 29.1 million in South America, an increase of 80%.”
Another reason cited by the report on the increase in malnutrition and hunger is the high cost of accessing a healthy diet, which for Latin America and the Caribbean is perhaps the highest, reaching US$3.89, very above the overall cost of US$3.54.
“More than 131 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean could not afford a healthy diet in 2020,” says the FAO, which points out that the differences in diet costs are given by “production, exports and dependence on imports” of certain foods.
And finally, the report points to the conflict with Ukraine as a reason for food inequality, which “is putting pressure on international food and fertilizer prices.” Due to this, says the FAO, the prices of the main food products have increased, as well as the prices of energy and fertilizers, something that is compromising food security throughout the world.
“The increase in the prices of wheat, corn and sunflower oil hinders access to nutritious foods that are part of healthy diets in the region, since many countries are net importers of these foods,” the report points out.