Country gets a red card in U.N. summary of malnutrition

The 2012 edition of “State of Food Insecurity in the World” finds Costa Rica losing ground in eliminating malnutrition, relative to recent years. Latin America as a whole has shown more progress than other regions.

Published by the U. N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the report has data from most countries going back to 1990 gathered in household surveys. Malnutrition is here defined as insufficient calories for normal activities, without taking into consideration other aspects of nutrition like adequate vitamins and minerals.

Overall, the world’s malnourished dropped from about a billion to 868 million in 20 years, or from 18.6 to 12.5 percent taking into consideration population growth.

Latin America progressed from 57 to 42 million which is 13.6 to 7.7 percent. Brazil accounted for the lion’s share with more than 10 million people escaping malnutrition.
Older surveys had always found the percentage of Costa Rican residents not getting adequate nutrition at less than 5 percent of the population, but the 2010-2012 period’s data had 6.5 percent. That equates to about 280,000 people, mostly in rural areas.

Even if a minor statistical anomaly, the backwards step has the country flagged red on the agency’s progress report, along with Guatemala and Paraguay as the only countries in Latin America so categorized.

The report also revised downward its earlier estimates of the impact of food price spikes in recent years, noting that developing countries in general were not affected much by the 2008-2009 recession in Europe and North America. The largest countries like China, India, and Indonesia have mechanisms in place to blunt short-term spikes.

Costa Rica’s poor pay high prices for rice, the staple along with black beans, at all times due to price supports for domestic farmers.

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