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  • The FAO said tackling rising obesity, a form of malnutrition, in the region is a main concern.

    The FAO said tackling rising obesity, a form of malnutrition, in the region is a main concern. | Photo: Reuters

Published 10 October 2017

Global hunger levels have risen for the first time in more than a decade, now affecting 11 percent of the world’s population.

Hunger is on the rise in six Latin American countries, with about 42.5 million people starving in the region, according to the annual report issued on Wednesday by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the Pan American Health Organization.

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After decades of progress to tackle hunger, Latin America recorded in 2016 a 6 percent increase — about more 2.4 million people, according to the Panorama of Food Security and Nutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean 2017.

If this pattern is not reversed in time, “it will be very difficult for the region to reach Sustainable Development Goal 2 on eradicating hunger and malnutrition by 2030”, said Julio Berdegué, FAO Regional Representative during the presentation of the document.

At the same time, the rise of malnutrition is now accompanied by increasing overweight and obesity, affecting women more than anyone as well as children.

“Nowadays, it is easy to find homes with one malnourished child and an overweight mother, or a chronically malnourished and overweight child or one with a vitamin and mineral deficiency”, PAHO Director, Carissa F. Etienne said during a press conference in Santiago, Chile. 

"The consumption of over-processed products is directly related to the increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity, as well as non-communicable diseases,” she added. “It is in this area that we must intensify our efforts at the country level to help people to have access to healthy food”.

Haiti recorded the highest rate of hunger in the region with a stunning 47 percent of the population suffering from malnutrition, representing about 5 million people, or two-thirds of the undernourished population in the entire Caribbean region.

However, in Brazil, Cuba and Uruguay less than 2.5 percent of the population is estimated to be undernourished, while in Argentina, Barbados, Chile, Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago it is below 5 percent.

Another study issued on Wednesday found that the number of obese children and adolescents worldwide has jumped tenfold in the past 40 years and the rise is accelerating in low- and middle-income countries, especially in Asia.

“The experience of east Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean show that the transition from underweight to overweight and obesity can be rapid,” the study by the Imperial College London and the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

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