Mon | Dec 16, 2019

Curb rise in hunger and obesity in Latin America and the Caribbean – UN

Published:Friday | November 15, 2019 | 12:33 AM
Sister Pauline Rukunyi of Kenya hands out boxed lunches to men waiting on the outside of the Missionaries of the poor Sisters’  holy innocents centre at Heroes Circle.
Sister Pauline Rukunyi of Kenya hands out boxed lunches to men waiting on the outside of the Missionaries of the poor Sisters’ holy innocents centre at Heroes Circle.

Santiago de Chile:

The prevalence of adult obesity in Latin America and the Caribbean has tripled since 1975, affecting one in four adults in a region where hunger has grown once again, reaching 42.5 million people, according to a new United Nations (UN) report issued yesterday titled Panorama of Food and Nutritional Security 2019.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Food Program (WFP), have called for countries in the region to develop urgent actions to address the increase in malnutrition.

HEALTHY FOOD ENVIRONMENT

Panorama of Food and Nutritional Security 2019 highlights the need to promote healthier food environments through taxes and incentives that favour healthy food, social protection systems, school-feeding programmes, and the regulation of food advertising and marketing. The agencies also stress the importance of improving food labelling with frontal nutritional warning systems, ensuring the safety and quality of food sold on the street, and reformulating the composition of certain products to ensure their nutritional contribution.

According to the Panorama report, the most significant increase in adult obesity in the region was observed in the Caribbean, where the percentage quadrupled, rising from six per cent in 1975 to 25 per cent, an increase in absolute terms from 760,000 to 6.6 million people.

“The explosive increase in obesity – which affects 24 per cent of the regional population, about 105 million people, almost double the global level of 13.2 per cent – not only has huge economic costs but also threatens the lives of hundreds of thousands,” explained the FAO’s regional representative, Julio Berdegué.

According to the report Panorama, every year, 600,000 people die in Latin America and the Caribbean owing to diseases related to poor diets, such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. Inadequate diets are associated with more deaths than any other risk factor, something that threatens our future generations, since the rates of both childhood and adolescent obesity have tripled between 1990 and 2016.

“We must act now to reverse this trend and prevent children from suffering the consequences of poor diets on their health and their future quality of life,” said PAHO/WHO Director Carissa F. Etienne. “To achieve this, we need the commitment of the whole society and public policies that regulate unhealthy food products, create environments conducive to physical activity, and promote healthy eating at school and at the family table,” she added.

The publication highlights that the region is worse than the rest of the world in the majority of malnutrition indicators related to excessive calorie intake: overweight has doubled since the 1970s and today affects 59.5 per cent of adults in the region, 262 million people, while globally, the rate is 20 percentage points lower: 39.1 per cent.