WASHINGTON – The Inter-American Development Bank on Wednesday launched a pilot project in the most disadvantaged areas of Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru to reduce the risks of malnutrition and obesity, which can be linked, in children under age five.
The “Spoon” program is designed to simultaneously “prevent undernutrition and reduce the risk of obesity in babies living in poor areas” in the countries in question, IDB president Luis Alberto Moreno said at a press conference on Wednesday in Washington.
The problem of overweight is not an esthetic question, but rather a serious health problem that can put the region’s economic development at risk, Moreno said.
In addition to contagious diseases, Latin America is facing the challenge of combating chronic diseases, like obesity, he said.
According to IDB figures, about four million Latin American children under age five are overweight, and in 2030 more than 50 percent of the adults in the region will be obese.
The Spoon project is aimed at uniting the efforts of international organizations like the IDB, the private sector and regional governments, Moreno said.
Most of the financing for the project will come from the Pepsico Foundation, which will donate $5 million to develop a behavioral change strategy to encourage parents and caregivers to adopt healthy feeding habits in the region’s poorest areas.
“Spoon is an important step toward addressing critical nutrition challenges facing many in Latin America,” Pepsico chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi said.
About 18 percent of Peru’s population is malnourished and this figure rises to 38 percent in the country’s poorest areas, and in the case of Guatemala the figure stands at 70 percent among the indigenous population, according to IDB figures.