Nearly 60 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean are struggling to get one square meal a day, as the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened poverty across the region.
The number of people living with hunger has gone up by a staggering 30%, or 13.8 million people, in just one year period between 2019 and 2020, according to data released by the United Nations.
The international organization has blamed lockdowns for the rise in poverty, saying that travel restrictions had destroyed millions of informal jobs that most of Latin Americans rely on.
In Latin America, the UN says “missing work one day can mean having little to eat the next (day).”
Food insecurity has long stalked Latin America, but the pandemic has exacerbated the situation. Hunger has affected around 7 million people in the Caribbean alone, more than 16% of the Caribbean’s population.
Julio Berdegué, the regional representative for the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), describes the situation as “critical”.
“We must say it loud and clear: Latin America and the Caribbean is facing a critical situation in terms of food security,” Berdegué added. “There has been an almost 79 percent hike in the number of people living in hunger from 2014 to 2020.”
Obesity is another problem plaguing the region. More than 100 million people are overweight, with obesity threatening to hit children hard.
“With services disrupted and livelihoods devastated, families are finding it harder to put healthy food on the table, leaving many children hungry and others overweight. For children to grow up healthy, we need to ensure all families access affordable, nutritious food”, says Jean Gough, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.