By Benjamin Flowers, Staff Reporter
A new report issued by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are making good strides in their global targets in reducing hunger and under-nutrition.
The FAO’s “The State of Food Insecurity in the CARICOM Caribbean 2015” report, released this week, showed that the number of undernourished persons in the Caribbean declined from 8.1 million in 1990-92, to 7.5 million in 2014-16. The reduction represents a 7.2 percent decrease, from 27 percent to 19.2 percent.
The report also said that three Caribbean Community countries: Barbados, Guyana and St Vincent and the Grenadines, had met both the World Food Summit (WFS) hunger reduction goal set in 1996 and the hunger reduction target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), agreed upon in 2000.
Four countries were also shown to have undernourishment levels of less than ten percent; they are Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, Bahamas, Belize, and Jamaica. In contrast, the remaining CARICOM nations registered undernourishment levels of between 10-20 percent, and Haiti was found to be the furthest behind, with undernourishment levels of almost 50 percent.
FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for the Caribbean, Dr Deep Ford, described CARICOM’s food and nutrition security situation as “precarious” pointing to the region’s vulnerability to natural disaster and the effects of climate change.
Ford noted that poor diets, due to the increasing consumption of processed foods are trending up in the region, which has subsequently increased the prevalence of no communicable illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. Food imports exceed domestic production in most CARICOM Caribbean countries. Only three countries (Belize, Guyana, and Haiti) produce more than 50 percent of their consumption rate.
“FAO is committed to assisting CARICOM countries in overcoming these challenges”, Dr Ford said.
In Belize, the Ministry of Health has been actively addressing under nutrition, by implementing feeding programs in primary schools, and working with social partners to disseminate information about healthy life style choices.
In September the MOH launched several food security projects in southern Belize, including launching three publications (two cook books and a documentary), donating equipment and supplies to feeding programs, and establishing Tilapia farms in several of the high schools.