Troubled by hunger statistics across LAC region, Pres. Ali issues strong call to action

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By Kurt Campbell

Kurt@newsroom.gy 

Already leading the charge towards food security in the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Guyana’s Head of State Dr. Irfaan Ali on Tuesday urged the wider Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region to unify its efforts to tackle starvation and malnourishment.

Dr. Ali said the statistics in the LAC region are troubling and distressing, particularly in rural areas, so much so that these countries now find themselves at a real risk of not accomplishing #2 of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)– Zero Hunger – by 2030.

“So why isn’t this making newspaper headlines? Is it that we are hiding this reality or it is that we don’t have the political will to shout this out to the population?” Dr. Ali quizzed as he addressed the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) dialogue on Food Security in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In 2019, some 7.4 per cent of the population in the LAC region lived in hunger, a situation that Dr. Ali explained has worsened in recent years.

There are another 13.2 million undernourished people in the region, many women and children.

To this end, Dr. Ali drew attention to the direct impact on educational and health outcomes.

“The issue of food security is interrelated to educational output. The drop in education is linked to undernourishment and food insecurity. By 2030 hunger will affect 67 million people and this figure doesn’t take into account the repercussions of the COVID pandemic,” Dr. Ali reasoned.

From L – R: Director General of IICA, Manuel Otero; President Dr. Irfaan Ali (second from left); Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), QU Dongyu; Executive Director of the World Food Program, David Beasley and Executive President of the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) Sergio Diaz-Granados

Providing more grim statistics, the Guyanese Head of State pointed out that in 2019, some 40 per cent of the poorest households in the LAC region experienced hunger and 50 per cent shifted consumption to less healthy diets.

Making the situation worse, Dr. Ali noted, is the current hike in prices, food inflation and the transportation system that has been less than desirable in moving products throughout the LAC region.

“The transportation system to move food across the region needs fixing. The cost for moving a container increased and it is not only availability and access, it is the movement and the cost of moving it.

“It is a perfect storm because all the constraints are hitting us at the same time,” the President said.

He called on member states to design a system that keeps food out of conflict, sanctions and war.

“We must devise appropriate and urgent measures to shield the vulnerable from food price increases and ensure that supply is strengthened and maintained.

“Vulnerabilities and uncertainties must be fixed to become more inclusive and sustainable,” he added.

Dr. Ali pointed to the work already started in CARICOM to reduce the food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025, remove trade barriers, strengthen institutions, expand access to agricultural lands and leverage research and technologies in innovative ways that also counter climate change.

He said the investment must not be at the level of individual countries and he encouraged a unified approach at the regional level.

In his own words, “we can share a common platform so all can benefit.”

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