By Chris Arsenault
ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Latin America and the Caribbean is the only region on track to meet the 2009 World Food Summit goal of halving the number of people suffering from hunger by 2015, the United Nations reported.
The number of hungry people in the region has fallen to 37 million from 68.5 million in just over 20 years, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in its "Panorama of Food and Nutritional Security 2014" report on Wednesday.
The region must feed an additional 2.75 million people by the end of 2015 to meet the goal, a "final push" that would require a faster pace of reduction that the average of 1.4 million people a year over the past two decades, the FAO said.
FAO Director General Jose Graziano da Silva wrote that the region had already met a similar target set as one of the Millennium Development Goals.
"Latin America and the Caribbean… is the only region of the world that has achieved the hunger target of the Millennium Development Goals, reducing to less than half its proportion of undernourished people since 1990," he wrote.
Fourteen nations: Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Guyana, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Dominican Republic, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Uruguay and Venezuela have met the MDG of halving the number of hungry people since 1990.
Four - Bolivia, Colombia, Honduras and Suriname - are 90 percent of the way there.
"Mere economic development" is not enough to address hunger, da Silva wrote, urging governments to expand social protection for the poor, while investing in family farmers to increase production.
Latin America fared better than the Caribbean in its struggle against hunger, reducing the number of hungry to 29.5 million today from 60.3 million in 1990-92, compared with a drop in the Caribbean to 7.5 million from 8.1 million people.
To meet the final goal, the report recommended: strengthening regional integration, improving systems for evaluating public policies, and integrating food security into broader development efforts.
(Reporting By Chris Arsenault; Editing by Tim Pearce)