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FAO: “Latin America needs more integration to face hunger”

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Latin America “needs more integration” in order to successfully deal with the phenomenon of hungerwhich in 2021 grew again for the sixth consecutive year to reach more than 8% of the total population, said the new representative of FAO for Latin America, Mario Lubetkin.

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In the first interview granted after taking office on August 1, the Uruguayan official insisted that “the current collaboration is not enough at all. The region has to play globally to face this issue. That is the way, and there is no other”, he stressed from his new office in Santiago de Chile.

The COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of the Russian war in Ukraine, the inflationary scenario and the impact of climate change make it necessary to “establish agreements and materialize changes,” warned the official, who will also maintain his position as deputy director general of FAO.

“The hunger traffic light in the region is bright yellow. The margins are shrinking, the numbers go against the objectives and the risks are growing every day”, warned the Uruguayan, communication expert and member of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) from the 2014.

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Even so, he said, “it is not too late and the situation is not irreversible if a series of elements come together.”

According to the latest figures from the agency, hunger rose in 2021 to affect 56.5 million people —8.6% of the regional population—, four million more than in 2020, when due to the COVID-19 pandemic the numbers jumped the most in 20 years.

The blow of climate change

Lubetkin stressed that climate change is the main challenge on a global scale and pointed out that its effects will be more noticeable on “small and medium-sized farmers, as well as the most humble and poorly prepared sectors.”

“Rains, storms, droughts… The numbers indicate that if there is no route correction, the difficulties for the rural producer are going to be enormous,” he lamented.

To deal with it, the agri-food system must be “modified to guarantee sustainability and resilience, something that affects the entire process, from planting the seed, quality control, product sales, transportation, etc.”

Likewise, the official made a call to collaborate, to share knowledge and strategies and to focus on those countries “that throw down the figures”, such as Haiti (where 47.2% of people are in a situation of hunger).

“The development capacity of a region is the combination of the action of its countries, with the support of the private sector, civil society, universities… Everyone has to act. Whoever remains neutral commits irresponsibility, ”she emphasized.

Latin America and the Caribbean, the most unequal region in the world, concentrates 7.4% of the world’s population that suffers from hunger, the official recalled.

The most affected countries are Haiti (47.2%), Venezuela (22.9%), Nicaragua (18.6%), and the least affected are Uruguay and Cuba (less than 2.5%) and Chile (2.6%), according to the latest report from the agency.

The war in Ukraine

Added to this crisis will be the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, “whose effects are still difficult to quantify,” Lubetkin said.

“In the first quarter, food products rose 11% in the region. Wheat increased 45%, oil 41%, these are very strong figures. Now it has stabilized, but very little, ”he detailed.

The latest FAO report suggests that the number of undernourished people in 2022 could increase in the world between 7.6 million people and 13.1 million people as a result of this conflict.

For Latin America and the Caribbean, by 2022 this would mean an increase of between 350,000 and 640,000 people, depending on the severity and future of the war.

Still, Lubetkin was hopeful: “Potentially, this region has instruments and has opportunities like few other regions in the world. The point is in the definition and the interaction between the countries”, he concluded.

Source: Gestion

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