Globe, Latin America

Between starvation & obesity

Latin America lives in duality. On the one hand 8.3% of the population doesn’t ingest the daily necessary calorie intake, and on the other, 16% of men and 23% of women are overweight.

The Prisma

Some 12.5% of the global population, which equates to almost 870 million people, is starving in the world. Of these, 850 million live in developing countries. This is reflected in the latest report from the United Nations Organization for Agriculture and Food (FAO).

Out of this percentage, 49 million are found in Latin America and the Caribbean. A figure which, without ceasing to be alarming, has dropped in respect of 1992, when the figure lay at around 65 million.

In spite of the fact that 16 million people are no longer in such a vulnerable situation, 8.3% of the population doesn’t ingest the necessary amount of calories in order to lead a healthy life.

The study underlines the importance of how the increase in the economies of such countries during 2012 has not translated into a corresponding decrease in the vulnerability to which a large part of the population of the area is exposed.

The FAO attributes this “dynamic period” of economic growth and the decline of poverty “to the increase in working class wages and public transfers”. However, it stresses that both in Latin America and in the Caribbean one can see “very high levels of inequality”. In fact, between 2011 and 2012, the 23 countries that make up the region experienced growth rates superior to those of the EU and the USA, when there was an increase in the prices of food and raw materials.

This inequality also can be seen in the terrain. Only 9 of the 33 countries in the region have a rate of hunger prevalence lower than 5% (Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay and Chile) and in 16 countries the rate exceeds 10%.

Out of all countries, Haiti, with 44%, is the country most affected by starvation. Guatemala follows, (30.4%) and then Paraguay (25.5%).

In agreement with the organization, starvation is not described as, “an insufficient production or supply of food”, but rather by the difficulty that a certain sector of the population has in accessing food through not having “sufficient income to acquire them”. The report states that the growth in the price of food since 2012 and the instability of the global economy aggravate the situation.  It claims; “Both aspects pose a threat to the security of the poorest and most vulnerable homes”.

The text suggests that, if adequate measures were adopted to revert the economic deceleration and to feed those starving, it would even be possible to reach the goal of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from starvation in the developing world by 2015.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) highlights that this figure of 49 million would have to include the 169 million people living in poverty in the region, which equates to 28.8% of the population.

In the report presentation, the Executive Secretary of ‘ECLAC’ Alicia Bárcena, was hopefully before the present rates of poverty and extreme poverty given that “they are lowest rates observed in the last 30 years”, and she blurted out, “we are facing unacceptable levels in many countries.”

The other extreme

Parallel to poverty there is another illness that grows day by day and that the World Health Organization (WHO) considers to be the epidemic of the XXI century. It consists of obesity and being overweight.

The organization is concerned with how the number of people who have an abnormal or excessive accumulation of fat, which can be detrimental to health, has doubled since 1980. These days, one in ten adults in the world are obese.

In total, one billion adults are overweight and 502 million citizens on the planet (205 million men 297 million women) are obese. To continue along this line, in 2015 there will be more than 700 million obese people and 2.3 billion overweight people.

Presently, excess weight and obesity are the fifth leading risk factor for death in the world. Each year more than 2.8 million adults die from its consequences. Also, it may cause damage due to raised blood pressure and levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.

The data is alarming given that for the first time in history the number of overfed people in the world competes with figure of those underfed. The saddest thing is that developing countries have joined the ranks of countries facing the problem of obesity.

Amongst the countries with the highest obesity rates are Mexico, Venezuela and Guatemala. Although studies indicate that Latin America  registers obesity rates (16% of men and 23% of women) lower than that of developed countries like the United States, the issue should not be put to one side.

The countries with the greatest levels of obesity are Saint Kitts and Nevis each with 40.9%. Paradoxically, and in spite of its figures of malnutrition, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina and Chile have recorded rates of around 30% in adults.

According to data from 2010, excess weight and obesity in those younger than the age of 5 affected more than two million children in South America; a million in Central America and around 300’000 in the Caribbean.

In fact, the WHO projects that for the year 2020 six of the countries with most obesity in the world with be Latin American; Venezuela, Guatemala, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Mexico.

Of these, Venezuela will be the third country with the most obese people in the world, with 41.6%, and Mexico will be in tenth place, with 35.3%.

(Translated by Eleanor Gooch – Email:

Share it / Compartir:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *