Caribbean a world champion in obesity, says FAO exec

Observer staff reporter

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

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ROSE HALL, St James — Assistant director for the Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) Latin America and Caribbean region Dr Julio Berdegué is pondering the anomaly of the high proportion of obesity among people of the Caribbean, which is also a hotbed for churning out the world's greatest athletes.

“The Caribbean, unfortunately, is a world champion in terms of obesity. It is a paradox that these regions produce the best athletes and, at the same time, have such a high proportion of obesity,” Dr Berdegué argued.

“It (obesity) is a very, very serious concern,” he continued.

On the other hand, he argued that hunger in Haiti remains a major concern for the FAO.

“The rest of the (Caribbean) countries, in different degrees, the situation is far less severe in terms of hunger, but Haiti remains the highest proportion of hungry people in the western hemisphere and Haiti is our top priority in this hemisphere when it comes to achieving the zero-hunger target,” he pointed out.

Dr Berdegué was responding to questions at a press briefing at his organisation's 35th Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James, which kicked off yesterday. It is a four-day conference.

Hunger and malnutrition; rural poverty and rural development; and the environment and agriculture, particularly climate change, are among the key topics to be discussed over the four days.

Admitting that “the problem of hunger and malnutrition will not be resolved in this meeting”, Dr Berdegué is however hopeful that the ministers in attendance from across the region “will give a very clear mandate to focus or work on certain critical issues”.

“We need a political mandate in order to really focus our energy in getting resources which have large-scale impact. That means much more intelligent targeting, focusing of our work on those very specific critical issues,” the FAO executive said.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness will officially open the conference on Wednesday morning.

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