Mexico War on Drugs Cartel Americas Africa Murder
A boy with a Mexican flag, stained with paint to resemble blood, lies down in a chalk outline representing the body of a crime victim during a protest in Mexico City. Reuters

The Americas has become the most deadly region in the world, overtaking Africa as the region with the highest number of murders, according to a UN report.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime report revealed that 40% of homicides were committed in the Americas - mainly in Central and South America and linked to gangs.

"Overall, organised crime [or] gang-related homicide accounts for 30% of homicides in the Americas," the report said.

The reports showed that rates in Central America were four times higher than the global average of 6.2 people killed per 100,000.

Honduras was found to have the world's highest murder rate with 90.4 per 100,000 people in 2012. Second was Venezuela with 53.7, Belize third with 44.7 and El Salvador fourth with 41.2.

UN policy analyst Jean-Luc Lemahieu said the rising murder rate of the Americas, which has doubled since 2007, could be attributed to violence between rival drug cartels.

"With other parts of Central America, you have to look at the gang issue," he said.

"The gangs are often created for people who are marginalised, who are looking for an identity. They need competition against other gangs, against society. They want to be seen, to be violent, to establish territory," he added.

Other countries that posted high murder rates were Guatemala with 39.9, South Africa with 31, Colombia with 30.8 and Brazil with 25.2.

Mexico, a country blighted by drug-related killings since a military crackdown on cartels, had a murder rate of 21.5 per 100,000 people.