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LATIN AMERICA / THE CARIBBEAN
Hunger still prevalent
10/28/2009
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Only Brazil, Chile and Cuba have advanced in the fight against hunger.

The population suffering from hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean is on the rise again, said the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Oct. 16, World Food Day.

Jacques Diouf, the body´s director-general, said 9 percent of the region´s population, or 53 million people, are suffering from malnutrition this year. The figure rose from 47 million last year and an average of 45 million in the 2004-2006 period.

The organization blamed the increase on the rise of food prices and the international financial crisis. Some 15 million children under the age of 5 in the region suffer from chronic malnutrition, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru being the most affected.

José Graziano, the FAO´s regional director, said the trend is not present in every country. Brazil, Chile and Cuba have made significant strides against hunger.

Brazil´s Zero Hunger program, which President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva launched in 2003, was key to help guarantee food for 50 million poor Brazilians. Six years later, the program has successfully reduced malnutrition by 73 percent and infant mortality by 45 percent, according to a recent report by humanitarian organization ActionAid.

In Peru, the present government says poverty has fallen from close to 50 percent in 2005 to around 36 percent, last year and extreme poverty from more than 17 percent in 2005 to 12.6 percent last year, according to the government´s National Statistics and Information Institute.

But some economists question those figures and the government´s calculation methods because it measures income levels, not nutrition.

“Hypothetically, the extreme poverty line indicates the amount of money necessary to buy basic foods, but it excludes expenses such as clothing, housing, transport and others, Farid Matuk, the institute´s former chief, wrote in newspaper La República.

“Food poverty is defined by the proportion of households that do not consume the foods necessary to survive according to a minimum number of calories,” he said.

Matuk said that the food calorie deficit would mean that 1 of every 3 Peruvians is not eating enough to have a healthy diet.
—Latinamerica Press.


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