The United Nations says a weaker economic performance and rising food costs are slowing poverty reduction in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The annual report from the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, or ECLAC
, says 164 million people, or 28 percent of the region's population, are still considered poor, with 68 million living in extreme poverty. That is nearly unchanged from last year.
The panel's last annual report said growing job income and economic growth helped lift a million people out of poverty to the lowest rate in more than three decades.
Now, it is calling for governments to enact policies to encourage growth while reducing the huge gap between rich and poor.
ECLAC says on average, 20 percent of the households with the lowest incomes in the region get just 5 percent of a country's total income, while the wealthiest 20 percent of households get 47 percent of the total income.
Latin American countries with the biggest reductions in poverty levels since 2011 were led by Venezuela with the rate dropping by 5.6 percentage points to 23.9 percent. Others included Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
Levels remained unchanged in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Uruguay, while poverty rose slightly in Mexico to 37 percent from 36 percent a year earlier.
The Chile-based U.N. agency says a significant number of people are still affected by issues such as lack of access to drinking water or appropriate sanitation.