Venezuela in crisis: Food insecurity and malnutrition on the rise

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / Photoprofi30
© Getty Images / Photoprofi30
The ongoing political, economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela has led to increases in both food insecurity and malnutrition, particularly among children, says a new study.

Scientists from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore report that 80% of households were food insecure. In addition, most households that were registered to receive government food assistance were only occasionally receiving the food.

Acute malnutrition is also on the rise, with prevalence among children aged from 6 months to 5 years ranging from 6% to almost 20% depending on their geographical locations.

The new paper, published in Social Science & Medicine​, also reports that data from the Venezuelan Society of Childcare and Pediatrics shows that 72% of children presenting for emergency care at public hospitals are there because of poor nutrition linked to inappropriate food consumption. Conditions linked to dietary deficiencies such as wasting, kwashiorkor and pellagra, are increasing rapidly.

“For the majority that have not left their country, the crisis persists and there are few available avenues the international humanitarian community can pursue to improve the situation. Despite international consensus there is a humanitarian emergency in Venezuela, there is hardly any response from the international community,” ​wrote the researchers, led by Shannon Doocy, PhD.

“However, many local organizations are independently implementing health and nutrition activities in response to the emergency as part of development programs. Expanding the scale of these efforts could ameliorate the impacts of the crisis until the political climate permits a response of a more appropriate scale.

“More immediately, since development assistance remains acceptable, scaling up aid in the areas of food security and agriculture could improve food security in the medium and long-term by beginning to address the food deficit. Support to commercial farms, food production facilities and associated enterprises could begin to increase national production capacity whilst investments in smallholder farmers, such as farmer-field schools and provision of agricultural inputs, could contribute to both improved household food security and food availability.”

Responses of neighboring countries

The Lima Group, which includes the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela, issued an extensive statement on the situation in Venezuela, which included the following points:

“Venezuela is experiencing a humanitarian, political, economic and moral crisis generated by the illegitimate and dictatorial regime of Nicolás Maduro that constitutes a threat to international peace and security, with regional and global effects.

“We urge the Secretary General of the United Nations, the General Assembly and the Security Council to take action to prevent the progressive deterioration of peace and security, and provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the population and migrants from Venezuela.

“We consider that the illegitimate regime of Nicolás Maduro has shown to have no will to dialogue and therefore demand the immediate cessation of the usurpation. This is an indispensable condition for the restoration of democracy and constitutional order through the holding of free, fair and transparent elections, with international accompaniment and observation.

“… We urge the international community to favor the transition process and the restoration of democracy in Venezuela, especially to Russia, China, Cuba and Turkey because of the negative impact that their support to the illegitimate regime of Maduro causes on our region.

“We invite the States that participate in the International Contact Group, regional partners such as Mexico, Uruguay and Bolivia, and other members of the international community, to deepen the process of convergence with the Lima Group, to demand the cessation of the usurpation and the holding of free, fair and transparent elections, with accompaniment and international observation.

“We call on the international community to continue adopting sanctions against the illegitimate regime of Maduro and exhort it to place at the exclusive disposal of the interim government of President Juan Guaidó the property belonging to the Venezuelan people abroad, in accordance with the legal order of each State.”

For the full statement, please click HERE​.

Source: Social Science & Medicine
April 2019, Volume 226, Pages 63-68, doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.02.007
“The food security and nutrition crisis in Venezuela”
Authors: S. Doocy et al.

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