Santiago (AFP): Hunger affected some 43.2 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2022, about 6.5 percent of the region's population, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization said Thursday.

While an improvement from 2021, the figure was higher than pre-Covid -- representing some six million extra hungry people from 2019, the agency said in a regional overview of food security and nutrition.

The FAO cited the pandemic, the climate crisis and the war on Ukraine, as well as economic slowdown, food inflation and income inequality as causes for the region's plight.

"One in five people in the region cannot access a healthy diet and malnutrition in all its forms, including child stunting, micronutrient deficiencies and obesity continue to be a major challenge," said the report.

The prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity in Latin America and the Caribbean -- 37.5 percent or about 247.8 million people -- was higher than the global figure of 29.6 percent, it added.

The FAO defines food insecurity as lacking regular access to enough safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active and healthy life. Hunger is undernourishment.

The report said a quarter of the region's adult population was obese, and the number of overweight children under five exceeded global estimates.

The cost of a healthy diet was the highest of all regions of the world, it added.