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The new United Nations report Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2022 finds that 22.5% of the Latin America and the Caribbean population cannot afford a healthy diet. In the Caribbean this figure reaches 52%; in Mesoamerica, 27.8%; and in South America, 18.4%.
According to the reports 131.3 million people in the region could not afford a healthy diet in 2020. This is an increase of 8 million compared to 2019 and is 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$4.23, followed by South America and Mesoamerica with US$ 3.61 and US$ 3.47, respectively.
This 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 the increase in international food prices, experienced since 2020, and 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,” Lubetkin concluded.
Trade and market policies can play a fundamental role in improving food security and nutrition. 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 programs have worked and are essential to support the diets of the most vulnerable population, particularly in periods of crisis.