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Almost 8 million more Latin Americans could suffer from food insecurity, says ECLAC

Some 7.8 million people are at risk of falling into food insecurity in Latin America and the Caribbean due to inflation and the slowdown in economic growth, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) estimated Monday.

That figure would add to the 86.4 million people in this situation in the region.

“This is only taking into account inflation and growth. If we add the fact that it hits women much harder (ndlr: in reference to the deterioration of women’s income and employment situation due to the pandemic), the informal sectors, and that there are no resources to improve the social situation, (then) the impact of the situation may be even greater,” said the acting Secretary General of ECLAC, Mario Cimoli.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), food insecurity means for a person the risk of not having access to “sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their daily energy needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.

ECLAC presented this Monday in Santiago its report “Repercussions in Latin America and the Caribbean of the war in Ukraine: how to face this new crisis”, in which it also updates data on poverty and extreme poverty in the region after the emergence of this conflict following the coronavirus pandemic.

Poverty would increase from 29.8% in 2018 to 33.7% in 2022 and in the case of extreme poverty the increase would be from 10.4% in 2018 to 14.9% this year, with emphasis on Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and Paraguay.

Cimoli qualified that “what is happening now is a process of different ‘shocks’, crisis sequences and a cumulative process” that began with the global financial debacle of 2008, continued with the political tensions between the United States and China in 2019, the coronavirus pandemic from 2020 and currently the war in Ukraine.

Growth down, prices up

The Latin America and Caribbean region grew 6.3% in 2021, in the midst of economic recovery from the pandemic. The projection falls for 2022 to 1.8%, 0.3 percentage points lower than forecast last January, and “tends to return to the sluggish growth pattern of 2014-2019,” the report notes.

“There is a heterogeneous response (from countries) with a very strong downward trend in estimates,” the acting secretary maintained.

The Caribbean stands out with a projected 10.1% GDP increase driven by Guyana (13%) and St. Lucia (10.5%). Central America’s growth is estimated at 4.2%. In the case of South America, the figure is 1.5%, with Venezuela (5%) and Colombia (4.8%) leading the way.

Regional inflation, which follows the world trend, will rise from 6.6% in 2021 to 8.1% in 2022, the report states.

The increase in poverty “reflects the sharp rise in food prices,” Cepal indicates. “These levels are notoriously higher than those observed before the pandemic and imply another setback in the fight against poverty” in the region, it adds

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