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12 Latin American, Caribbean countries honored by UN for fighting hunger

At a ceremony in Rome on Sunday, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director General José Graziano da Silva recognized 12 Latin American and Caribbean countries, including Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, and Venezuela, among others, that halved their proportion of of people facing hunger.

The award honored countries for meeting the Millennium Development Goal to halve the proportion of undernourished people by 2015 and the more ambitious World Food Summit goal of halving the absolute number of undernourished people by the same year. FAO collects data from each member country and international agencies and then analyzes food availability and distribution to determine the number of people who cannot meet the caloric levels for a “healthy life,” according to the group’s methodology

Critics of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, however, blasted the organization for honoring the country when it struggles with food insecurity and some of Latin America’s worst inflation, rising nearly 30 percent each year. Opposition news organization Globovisión reported that activists from the Voluntad Popular political party demonstrated outside the U.N.’s FAO offices, disputing the quality of the food young people receive and the government’s claim that only 30 percent of the country’s food is imported, according to ABC News/Univisión. Opposition leader Julio Borges put the amount of imported food as high as 70 percent.

FAO acknowledged 38 countries in all for their achievements in fighting hunger. From Latin America and the Caribbean, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Guyana, Nicaragua, Peru, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Panama, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Uruguay were recognized for their efforts, and leaders in the region are already looking to the next step. The Latin America and Caribbean without Hunger Initiative has set a target of eliminating hunger in the region by 2025.

“Reducing child malnutrition by half means we still have the other half to go,” said Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli during the meeting.

AFP contributed to this story.

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