PANAMA - At the request of the Government of Panama, the UN World Food Programme is supporting a two-day Regional Technical Consultation meeting - starting today - to coordinate the agendas of the fight against hunger and malnutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The main aim of the meeting, attended by ministerial experts from the 25 member states of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), is to gather commitment on the issues of hunger and malnutrition and increase cooperation in the lead up to the 29 July IV Summit hosted by the Panama Government.
Although there has been an improvement over the last years, in Latin America and the Caribbean, still 53 million people do not get enough food for a healthy and active life. Approximately 30 million of these people live in the ACS.
"The ACS states will not reach the Millennium Development Goals unless they solve, as a priority, the problems of hunger and malnutrition," said Pedro Medrano, WFP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. Halving the proportion of people suffering from poverty and hunger, especially children, by the year 2015, is the first of the Millennium Development Goals.
"The vicious cycle of hunger not only affects a person's life, it also affects future generations. Hunger is inherited and perpetuated and therefore hampers the development of people and entire countries," Medrano said.
Poverty and hunger affect mainly women, and children under the age of five, especially among ethnic minorities in rural areas. Pregnant women deprived of adequate nutrition have low birth-weight babies. Malnourished children have a weak immune system and are more likely to die from common diseases such as tuberculosis and diarrhea. If these children survive beyond the age of five, they will be underweight and endure stunted physical and intellectual growth. As adults, these deficiencies translate into a limited capacity to work and earn.
"Since we are aware that hunger perpetuates poverty, and poverty breeds more hunger, we know it is time to make changes. At the World Food Programme we firmly believe that the key to ending this vicious cycle is to improve the nutritional status of pregnant women and children between 6 and 36 months of age," said Medrano.
During the Technical Consultation, the case will be made for nutrition to become an integral part of the 25 countries' poverty reduction strategies. The Panama Government and WFP are also hoping for the introduction of short term efforts, such as the establishment of food assistance networks.
The meeting is being attended by Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, San Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadins, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago and Venezuela.
Through its development programmes and protracted relief and recovery operations during 2004, WFP provided relief to 5.5 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean, a region which is highly vulnerable to natural disasters (hurricanes, earthquakes and droughts).
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: each year, we give food to an average of 90 million poor people to meet their nutritional needs, including 56 million hungry children, in at least 80 of the world's poorest countries. WFP -- We Feed People.
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