Latin America Is Moving to a Hunger Pandemic

Climate disasters, poverty, political instability, and the impact of the pandemic are taking a toll on people around the world. 

In Latin America, six countries, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Venezuela are on the verge of a hunger pandemic, with 268 million people facing chronic food insecurity. 

Ironically, Latin America is one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet but the focus from government funding goes towards exporting goods.  This has led to the ironic situation of massive hunger in a fertile land.

Severe food insecurity In Latin America and the Caribbean

Food insecurity is a public health concern in various regions of the world and is defined as the lack of constant access to enough food for an active and healthy life and to avoid the risk of suffering from nutritional disorders and other related diseases

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) is calling for Latin America and the Caribbean to step up efforts to end the growing food crisis.  

Hunger is on the rise in Latin America, a problem that must be solved if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030. Last year almost a third of the people in Latin America experienced either severe or moderate food insecurity, according to the report. 

Moderate food insecurity means they were forced to reduce the size of their meals, skip meals, or substitute lower-quality ingredients. Severe food insecurity is when individuals go days without eating at all.

According to the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), the number of people suffering from severe food insecurity in Latin America has doubled since the start of the pandemic.

This startling increase is likely to have far-reaching consequences for the region.

According to the Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2021, hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean is at its highest point since the year 2000, after a 30 percent increase in the number of people suffering hunger from 2019 to 2020.

In just one year, and in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people living with hunger increased by 13.8 million, reaching a total of 59.7 million people.

Four out of every ten people in the region––268 million–– experienced moderate or severe food insecurity in 2020, 60 million more than in 2019, an increase of 9 percentage points, the most pronounced rise in relation to other world regions.

In Brazil, for example, the number of people experiencing hunger has increased by 15 percent since the start of the pandemic. This is due to a combination of factors, including job losses, reduced access to food assistance programs, and inflation.

Other countries in Latin America are also struggling with increased hunger levels. In Peru, the number of people experiencing severe food insecurity has doubled since the pandemic began. And in Ecuador, nearly one-third of the population is now living in extreme poverty.

People migrating to Latin America face even more challenges

More and more people are being forced to migrate to Latin America and the Caribbean region due to the global food security crisis. This crisis has been made worse by inflation caused by the war in Ukraine. Many of these people are vulnerable people and at risk of injury or death during their journey.

According to the United Nations, the dramatic deterioration in people’s daily lives has given them little option but to leave their communities and head north, even if it means risking their lives, the WFP official explained. Communities of particular concern include Haitian migrants who traveled during the COVID-19 pandemic in search of work and shelter in Brazil and Chile. 

One of the clearest signs of people’s desperation is the fact that they are willing to risk their lives crossing the Darien Gap, a particularly arduous and dangerous forest route in Central America that allows access from the south of the continent to the north.

“In 2020, 5,000 people passed by the Darien Gap, migrating from South America into Central America, and you know what, in 2021, 151,000 people passed, and this is 10 days walking through a forest, 10 days through rivers, crossing mountains and people die because this one of most dangerous jungles in the world.”

UN data indicates that of the 69 economies now experiencing food and energy prices increase and financial shocks, 19 are in Latin America and the Caribbean region.

This has meant that the government was already doing its utmost to sustain social welfare safety nets during the coronavirus pandemic and is now struggling to maintain this level of support to the population.

Migration can have a number of negative effects on hunger and food security for individuals and families in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region. These include:

  1. Loss of livelihoods: Migrants often leave behind their farms and livelihoods in search of better economic opportunities, which can lead to food insecurity for their families left behind.
  2. Disruption of food systems: Migration can disrupt food systems and local economies, as migrant workers often leave behind their roles as farmers and agricultural workers, leading to a shortage of labor and potentially causing food shortages.
  3. Economic burden: Migrants often have to take on debt to finance their migration, which can have a negative impact on their financial well-being and their ability to afford food.
  4. Risk of exploitation: Migrants may be forced to work in low-paying jobs, with little or no access to benefits such as health insurance, making it difficult for them to afford adequate food.
  5. Social isolation: Migrants often face discrimination and social isolation in their host countries, which can lead to feelings of isolation and alienation and may make it difficult for them to access food assistance or other resources.
  6. Loss of cultural identity: Migrants may lose touch with their traditional food culture and may struggle to maintain their traditional dietary habits in their new host countries.
  7. Risk of hunger and malnutrition: Due to lack of access to food, adequate housing, and healthcare, migrants may suffer from hunger and malnutrition, which can have long-term negative effects on their health and well-being.

Migration can have a wide range of negative effects on hunger and food security for individuals and families in the LAC region. It is important for governments and organizations to provide support and resources to mitigate these negative effects and to address the underlying causes of migration, such as poverty and lack of economic opportunities.

How We Help Nutrition & Health Food Security in Latin America

So what can be done to help? The global reaction to the pandemic has created a perfect storm of conditions that have led to this increase in hunger. But there are some things that can be done to help ease the burden on those who are struggling.

One way to help Latin America and the Caribbean region is to increase access to food. This is where Food for Life Global comes in. We are a nonprofit organization that provides nutritious plant-based food to vulnerable people in Latin America and the Caribbean region. We believe that everyone deserves access to healthy food, and our meals are designed to nourish and sustain families in need. Food has the innate ability to break down barriers and bring people together, healing the body, mind, and soul in the process. 

Food for Life Global affiliates serves only the purest of food, food that is devoid of animal suffering, prepared and served with love. Furthermore, recognizing that the ultimate solution to the problem of hunger is the elimination of poverty, Food for Life provides not only direct food distribution services but also addresses, through its affiliate programs, diverse but related issues such as education, environmental health, and sustainability, animal welfare, and health care.

Although the situation in Latin America and the Caribbean region is dire, there is still hope. If you would like to help us fight hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean region, please consider making a donation. Your support will allow us to continue serving nutritious meals to families in need. Together, we can make a difference in the fight against hunger.

Paul Turner

Paul Turner

Paul Turner co-founded Food for Life Global in 1995. He is a former monk, a veteran of the World Bank, entrepreneur, holistic life coach, vegan chef, and author of 6 books, including, FOOD YOGA, 7 maxims for soul happiness.

MR. Turner has traveled to 72 countries over the last 35 years helping to establish Food for Life projects, train volunteers, and document their success.

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