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UN Report: Hunger and obesity in Latin America and the Caribbean compounded by inequality

For the third consecutive year, the number of those chronically hungry has increased in Latin America and the Caribbean, while 250 million – 60 percent of the regional population - are obese or overweight, representing the biggest  threat to nutritional health, said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Wednesday.

Speaking at the launch of the 2018  Panorama of Food and Nutrition Security report in Santiago, Chile, FAO’s Regional Representative, Julio Berdegue said it was an “appalling” threat to health overall, affecting women and indigenous groups the most.

The Panorama, published annually by FAO, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Food Programme (WFP), explores strategies to halt the health threats posed by hunger and malnutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean.

According to the report, hunger, malnutrition, lack of micronutrients, and obesity largely affect lower income families, women, indigenous communities, Afro-descendants and rural families.

Principle causes of malnutrition amongst the most vulnerable, can be traced back to changes the food systems have experienced in the region, from production to consumption. With a greater strain on the demand for nutrient-rich food like milk and meats, many resort to less costly options which are often higher in fat, sugar and salt.

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Infographics from the 2018 FAO report:

 

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obesity facts

 

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To beat hunger and combat climate change, world must ‘scale-up’ soil health

Healthy soils are essential to achieve ‘Zero Hunger’ – and other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – peace and prosperity, the United Nations agriculture agency chief underscored in Brazil at the World Congress of Soil Science.

 

On Sunday, more than 2,000 scientists gathered in Rio de Janeiro under the theme “Soil Science: Beyond food and fuel,” for a week of exploring the increasingly complex, diverse role of soils; grappling with resilient agriculture practices to address environmental and climatic changes; and confronting threats to food security and sovereignty.

“Soil degradation affects food production, causing hunger and malnutrition, amplifying food-price volatility, forcing land abandonment and involuntary migration-leading millions into poverty,” said José Graziano da Silva, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organizaation (FAO), in a video message noting that approximately one-third of the Earth’s soil is degraded

The FAO The Status of the World's Soil Resources report had identified 10 major threats to soil functions, including soil erosion, nutrient imbalance, acidification and contamination.

Mr. Graziano da Silva stressed the importance of sustainable soil management as an “essential part of the Zero Hunger equation” in a world where more than 815 million people are suffering from hunger and malnutrition.

Soils and climate change

“Although soils are hidden and frequently forgotten, we rely on them for our daily activities and for the future of the planet,” the FAO chief said, underscoring the important support role they play in mitigating or adapting to a changing climate.

Mr. Graziano da Silva specifically pointed to the potential of soils for carbon sequestration and storage – documented in FAO’s global soil organic carbon map.

“Maintaining and increasing soil carbon stock should become a priority,” asserted the UN agriculture chief.

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Poorer countries set to be 'increasingly dependent' on food imports, says UN food agency report

Poorer countries with rising populations and scarce natural resources are likely to be “increasingly dependent” on imports to feed their people, according to an annual report jointly compiled by the United Nations food agency, launched on Tuesday.

Although overall exports from countries and regions with plenty of agricultural land are forecast to increase, the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2018-2027 stressed that because agricultural trade plays an important role in food security, there needs to be an enabling trade policy environment.

According to the Agricultural Outlook, undernourishment is concentrated in conflict-riddled and politically-unstable countries – with the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) facing simultaneous challenges of food insecurity, rising malnutrition and managing limited natural resources.

The report forecasts strong growth in agriculture and fishing in developing regions whose populations are rising fast, including Sub-Saharan Africa, South and East Asia and MENA. These areas are facing the challenge of limited land and water resources as well as extreme-weather related issues of climate-change, resulting in high dependence on food imports.

By contrast, this growth is predicted to be significantly lower in developed countries, particularly across Western Europe.

"The Green Revolution of the last century largely increased the world's capacity to feed itself but now we need asustainability revolution," said José Graziano da Silva, Director General, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), presenting the report with Angel Gurría,  Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 

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Venezuela: Economic woes worsening malnutrition among children, warns UNICEF

Amid growing food insecurity and rising malnutrition among children on the back of a protracted economic crisis in Venezuela, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Friday called on all actors for rapid and coordinated assistance efforts to reach those most in need.

“While precise figures are unavailable because of very limited official health or nutrition data, there are clear signs that the crisis is limiting children’s access to quality health services, medicines and food,” said the UN agency in a news release, Friday, underlining the severity of the situation.

According to UNICEF, national reports in 2009 (the most recent official figures) showed that the prevalence of wasting (low weight to height ratio) in children under five was, at the time, 3.2 per cent.However, more recent non-official studies indicate “significantly higher rates” of as much as 15.5 per cent, and an additional 20 per cent of children at risk of malnutrition.

Similarly, the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017 (a comprehensive report on the subject prepared by a number of UN agencies) suggested that undernourishment – a measure of hunger indicating the proportion of population with inadequate energy consumption – in Venezuela rose from 10.5 per cent in 2004-2006 to 13 per cent in 2014-2016.

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Famine declared in part of South Sudan

20 February 2017 – Famine has been formally declared in parts of South Sudan, the United Nations said today, warning that war and a collapsing economy have left some 100,000 people facing starvation there and a further 1 million people are classified as being on the brink of famine.

“Famine has become a tragic reality in parts of South Sudan and our worst fears have been realised,” said Serge Tissot, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Representative in South Sudan, in a news release issued jointly with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

“Many families have exhausted every means they have to survive,” he stated, explaining that these people are predominantly farmers who have lost their livestock, even their farming tools.

Famine is currently affecting parts of Unity State in the northern-central part of the country. A formal famine declaration means people have already started dying of hunger.

The situation is the worst hunger catastrophe since fighting erupted more than three years ago between rival forces – the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) loyal to President Salva Kiir and the SPLA in Opposition backing First Vice-President Riek Machar.

The three UN agencies warned that urgent action is needed to prevent more people from dying of hunger.

According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) update released today by the government, the three agencies and other humanitarian partners, 4.9 million people - more than 40 percent of South Sudan's population - are in need of urgent food, agriculture and nutrition assistance.

The total number of food insecure people is expected to rise to 5.5 million at the height of the lean season in July if nothing is done to curb the severity and spread of the food crisis.

“More than one million children are currently estimated to be acutely malnourished across South Sudan; over a quarter of a million children are already severely malnourished. If we do not reach these children with urgent aid many of them will die,” said Jeremy Hopkins, UNICEF Representative a.i in South Sudan.

“We have also warned that there is only so much that humanitarian assistance can achieve in the absence of meaningful peace and security, both for relief workers and the crisis-affected people they serve,” said WFP Country Director Joyce Luma.


 

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Humanitarian organizations are appealing for US$1.6 billion to provide life-saving assistance and protection to 5.8 million people across South Sudan in 2017.

“The humanitarian situation in South Sudan has deteriorated dramatically due to the devastating combination of conflict, economic decline and climatic shocks,” said Mr. Eugene Owusu, the Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan. “In 2017, we are facing unprecedented needs, in an unprecedented number of locations, and these needs will increase during the upcoming lean season.”

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