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Hunger and Development in Latin America
"There can be no sustainable development in the world while millions of people go hungry."
FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, January 2013, Community of Latin American and Caribbean States-EU Summit
This summit, which included representatives of about 60 nations in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the European Union, focused on food security as a key component of sustainable development. In the past decade, Latin America has been a leader in both rhetoric and action to make reducing hunger and poverty a top priority.
Graziano pointed out that Latin America was one of the first regions to take on the challenge of eradicating hunger, launching the Hunger Free Latin America and the Caribbean Initiative in 2005. Latin America has been a “policy laboratory” whose anti-poverty and -hunger campaigns include Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) in Brazil as well as the Crusade Against Hunger in Mexico, launched in January 2013.
The political commitment of the past decade has been accompanied by significant progress against hunger and poverty in many countries in the region. Governments have harnessed strong economic growth to support anti-poverty and hunger reduction programs that combine market-based economic growth with an emphasis on addressing social problems and inequality. Brazil has been the most visible example of using strong economic growth to address social problems; its combination of growth and social spending has helped lift tens of millions of people out of poverty over the past decade.
Hunger has also been reduced in the region as a whole over the past two decades. In 1990-1992, 14.6 percent of the population, or 65 million people, were hungry, while by 2010-2012, 8.3 percent, or 49 million people, were hungry.
Graziano said that in Latin America, as a middle-income region, hunger is fundamentally a lack of access to food, not the availability of food. "Latin America and the Caribbean, with a population of 600 million people, produce enough food to feed 750 million people. However, 49 million of the current population still suffers hunger," he said.
As in other regions, women and children in Latin America suffer from poverty and hunger more than men. For example, in Colombia, there are 110 women ages 20 to 59 in poor rural households for every 100 men. In Chile 114 women live in such households for every 100 men.
Despite the progress in Latin America, hunger, poverty, and lack of economic opportunity still push people to look for work in the United States. Historically, a large majority of immigrants to the United States have been men seeking economic opportunity to support their families at home. But today more Latin American immigrants than ever are female – 51 percent – since women, too, often need to support children who remain in their home countries.
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