The U.N. World Food Program is warning that upward of at least 14 million people could go hungry in Latin America as the coronavirus pandemic rages on, shuttering people in their homes, drying up work and crippling the economy.
New projections released late Wednesday estimate a startling increase: Whereas 3.4 million experienced severe food insecurity in 2019, that number could more than quadruple this year in one of the world’s most vulnerable regions.
“We are entering a very complicated stage,” said Miguel Barreto, the WFP’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “It is what we are calling a hunger pandemic.”
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Signs of mounting hunger are already being felt around the region, where desperate citizens are violating quarantines to go out in search of money and food and hanging red and white flags from their homes in a cry for aid. Many of the hungry are informal workers who make up a sizable portion of Latin America’s workforce, while others are newly poor who have lost jobs amidst an historic economic downturn.
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“I am the captain of the family,” said Dieufete Lebien, 57, a now unemployed construction worker in Haiti.