Latin America can feed three times its population, yet millions go hungry – UN

Latin America can feed three times its population, yet millions go hungry – UN

With Latin America producing enough food to feed more than three times its total population, the continent must redouble its efforts to eliminate the inequalities leading to the vast strata of malnutrition and poverty that are sapping its economic development, United Nations officials have told a regional conference.

“The loss of talent and human potential caused by hunger and malnutrition is probably the most serious long-term threat facing the economic and social development of our countries,” World Food Programme (WFP) Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Philip Clarke told an Andean region ministerial meeting yesterday.

Overall 20 per cent of children under 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition – 27 per cent in Bolivia, 26 per cent in Ecuador, 25 per cent in Peru and 14 per cent in Colombia – according to a report on hunger and inequality presented to the meeting in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito by WFP and the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

The problem is especially acute among indigenous and rural peoples in the Andean region, with nearly half of all indigenous-speaking minors suffering malnutrition.

Yet Latin America as a whole is a continent rich in food. Its 24 countries totalling 530 million people produced enough food in 2002 to feed 1.8 billion people. Hunger is thus directly related to inequality and access to food. The problem is compounded in the Andean countries by geographical and cultural barriers such as the ineffectiveness of certain food policies.

“How many scientists, how many engineers, how many Nobel prize laureates, businessmen, sportsmen and political thinkers have been lost because of this scourge?” Mr. Clarke asked in his inaugural address.

“This is the generation that could put an end to hunger in America, to illiteracy, extreme suffering, deficiencies in health services, by assuring basic necessities to every person in our countries,” he stressed. “It can be achieved. It is possible economically and it is possible technically, but we must redouble our efforts to ensure that millions of poor and hungry climb on to the train of growing prosperity in our region.”