Mario Lubetkin, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) says that an increase in humanitarian efforts with populations that can no longer meet their minimum food needs is necessary to tackle food insecurity.
He notes that, “it is also essential to invest in agriculture and local food production, as this also contributes to humanitarian work in contexts of food crises”.
With the release of the World Food Crisis Report 2023, Lubetkin has highlighted the impact on the LAC.
“Currently, only four per cent of humanitarian assistance in countries in food crisis goes to agricultural and livelihood support,” he said.
He added that, “humanitarian aid must be provided to protect agricultural livelihoods, act proactively on alerts anticipating the deterioration of an acute food insecurity situation before it becomes an extreme emergency, ensure social protection for rural people, and increase economic and climate resilience.”
Lubetkin noted that investing in agriculture and the resources that sustain it is strategic and cost-effective.
“According to our studies, the benefits of investing in agriculture can be ten times greater than if investing only in food aid, and the effects can be prolonged over time. Without successful recovery and sustainable development initiatives, there will be a perpetual need for urgent humanitarian action and an increased risk of deterioration into a chronic emergency,” he said.
“We must achieve these results with more coordinated efforts by international organisations, governments, the private sector, regional organisations, civil society, and communities,” he stressed.
Global Report on Food Crises
Lubetkin pointed out that the food crisis or emergency reported in the region in 2022 is mainly due to several factors, such as the war in Ukraine, the social and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the impact of extreme weather events.
According to the latest Global Report on Food Crises, in 2022, almost 258 million people in 58 countries faced the highest levels of acute food insecurity, which includes the categories of “Crisis”, “Emergency”, and “Catastrophe”, meaning that it can range from malnutrition to the risk of death due to lack of food.
The number of acutely food-insecure people in Latin America and the Caribbean reached 17.8 million where Haiti reports one of the most challenging situations, with 4.72 million people affected. This represents 26 per cent of the region’s total.
Lubetkin said that, “the situation has led the affected regional population to take extreme measures” and it includes “selling their animals, eating seeds knowing very well that they will have nothing to plant later, selling their homes, or begging for food, which turns into a spiral of vulnerability, particularly among the rural populations.”
He noted that currently, many people suffering food crises depend on agricultural livelihoods for survival. “This is most critical for rural women. In a household with insufficient food, evidence indicates that women will be worse off than men. There are also significant gaps in the food security of indigenous populations,” he said.
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