Latin America and the Caribbean continues to be the most unequal region in the world
Despite significant progress in development, Latin America and the Caribbean is still the most unequal region in the world. There are a high number of middle income countries that have significant parts of the population living below the poverty line. This has unique challenges with regards to health, especially when reaching the most disadvantaged groups. The cycle of poverty, and therefore poor health is perpetuated as girls, boys and adolescents living in the poorest households, with the lowest education opportunities, as well as those from Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities are disproportionately burdened with poor health and living conditions. They also have the least access to quality health care services, including for life-saving interventions for neonatal health.
Only through equity-based strategies will the burden of poor health and nutrition be relieved in Latin America and Caribbean.
These inequalities are further seen through nutrition outcomes in Latin America and Caribbean with a double burden of malnutrition. The region sees pockets of high levels of stunting and acute malnutrition, which is particularly concerning for children under five. Critical malnutrition preventive practices like exclusive breastfeeding are reducing in many countries. On the other hand we see a widespread increase in child overweight and obesity.
Empowering adolescents enables them to take control of their health
Adolescent pregnancy rates are the second highest in the world, following behind sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, there has been a failure to reduce the rates of new HIV infections among adolescents, whilst consciousness of the risk of HIV is low. Mental health and wellbeing is growing in concern when observing trends in causes of mortality amongst this group.
An annual cycle of emergencies requires a focus on resilience
In a region that faces many emergencies, including the annual hurricane season, ensuring that communities and systems are resilient in crisis remains a priority. Latin America and the Caribbean is prone to several mosquito-borne disease outbreaks, including the recent Zika virus, as well as the reappearance of previously controlled communicable illnesses, such as measles. There is a specific concern on the capacity to prevent and address undernutrition at times of crisis, especially with regards to breastfeeding.