SANTIAGO, Chile, CMC – A new United Nations (UN) report has revealed that almost a quarter of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) don’t have the money required to have a healthy diet, with the region having the highest cost compared to the rest of the world.
According to ‘Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2022’ which was released on Wednesday, 22.5 per cent of the region – 131.3 million people – could not afford a healthy diet in 2020. In the Caribbean specifically, that figure reached 52 per cent.
“It should be noted that the high figure in the Caribbean is mainly attributed to the inclusion of Haiti, which has the highest level of undernourishment and food insecurity in the region,” the UN said.
The number of people who could not afford a healthy diet in the wider LAC represented an increase of eight million when compared to 2019.
The UN said that was due to the higher average daily cost of healthy diets in Latin America and the Caribbean compared to the rest of the world’s regions, reaching in the Caribbean a value of US$4.23.
Noting that the problem is related to different socioeconomic and nutritional indicators, the report presents a clear relationship between the inability to afford a healthy diet and such variables as a country’s income level, the incidence of poverty, and the level of inequality.
The report also reveals that the rise in international food prices experienced since 2020, exacerbated after the start of the conflict in Ukraine, and a regional increase in food inflation above the general level, have increased the difficulties for people to access a healthy diet.
“There is no individual policy that can solve this problem independently. National and regional coordination mechanisms need to be strengthened to respond to hunger and malnutrition,” said Mario Lubetkin, FAO Assistant Director and Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean.
“To contribute to the affordability of healthy diets, it is necessary to create incentives for the diversification of the production of nutritious foods aimed mainly at family farming and small-scale producers, take measures for the transparency of the prices of these foods in markets and trade, and actions such as cash transfers and improving school menus.”
The report noted that trade and market policies can play a fundamental role in improving food security and nutrition. It said greater transparency and efficiency improve inter-regional agri-food trade by replacing uncertainty with market predictability and stability.
“We are talking about the region of the world with the most expensive healthy diet, which particularly affects vulnerable populations – small farmers, rural women, and indigenous and Afro-descendant populations – who allocate a greater percentage of their income to the purchase of food,” said IFAD Regional Director Rossana Polastri.
“To reverse this situation, we must promote innovative solutions that diversify production and increase the supply of healthy food, and that improve small producers’ access to markets and quality food, including digital solutions that articulate food supply and demand.”
The report also describes how some nutrition-sensitive social protection programmes have worked and are essential to support the diets of the most vulnerable population, particularly in periods of crisis.
According to the UN report, other food policies, such as nutritional labelling, subsidising nutritious foods, and taxing unhealthy or non-nutritious foods that do not contribute to healthy diets, if well designed, can improve the affordability of healthy diets and prevent debilitating conditions and diseases related to overweight and obesity.
The Regional Panorama of Food and Nutrition Security 2022 is a joint publication of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO); the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO); the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).