After a survey carried out between July and September 2019 in 8,375 households across Venezuela, the World Food Programme estimates in its latest report that 2.3 million people (7.9% of the population) is facing severe food insecurity, while another 7 million (24.4%) is in moderate food security. In other words, 32.3% of the Venezuelan population (1 out of every three citizens) cannot access or afford food in the necessary amount and quality for their nutritional requirements without assistance.

Although the UN estimates that nearly 3 million people received some sort of aid in the last year, specialists point out that a sizable part of the population have depleted their resources and strategies to cover through their own means the items of the basic food basket, with a price of $271 USD by the end of 2019, or 107 minimum wages at the time (VES 40,000). At the start of 2020, the government increased the minimum wage by 500% (VES 250,000), or just about $6.7 USD per month.

The report “Human Rights Violations in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela: a downward spiral with no end in sight” issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), states that the government-sanctioned food assistance program known as Local Committees of Supply and Production (CLAP in Spanish) does not cover the nutritional needs of Venezuelans in general, and children and adolescents in particular. It is not efficient in the frequency, amount or quality of the food delivered. Additionally, it is used as a tool of political co-optation and, perhaps due to this, it is not distributed among minors.

At the same time, many families face obstacles to prepare and consume food in minimum healthy conditions, due to limited access to cooking gas and constant problems with the supply of drinking water. These problems and social insecurity also affect the Food Program for Schools (PAE in Spanish). There are areas where the schools covered by the Program are vandalized and the food is stolen. The same happens in other community spaces that offer food services.

The risks of hunger

Despite the efforts of Venezuelan NGOs and international institutions, 840 children and adolescents showed signs of wasting and stunting in Amazonas and Delta Amacuro, and 640 were at risk of malnutrition in February alone. In Delta Amacuro, 13 Warao babies (0 to 11 months old) suffer from malnutrition. Teachers from various places of the country have denounced degrees of malnutrition in children.

In order to stave off hunger, people resort to risky measures that often end up having serious consequences. In March, a girl and her grandmother died for consuming wild yam.

Food insecurity increased the vulnerability of children and adolescent and has become an increasing driver of parental care deprivation, child abuse and forms of transactional sex (in exchange for food) as a survival strategy.

Food in quarantine

Fe y Alegría, along with the Venezuelan Association for Catholic Education (AVEC in Spanish) set up a food assistance plan for children and adolescents in the context of the pandemic and the quarantine that forced the suspension of the school year. However, the lack of gasoline has had an impact on the price and availability of food and its distribution. Similarly, for a considerable number of families, respecting the quarantine is not an option, since the likelihood of contagion pales in comparison to the urgency of hunger.

About 1% of Venezuelan migrants in the Andean region have been forced to return due to the levels of vulnerability they experience in host countries, where they lack formal employment, means to purchase food, shelter or assistance, a situation that has been exacerbated by the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. Most of them have fled from hunger and face even harsher conditions upon their return.

Venezuela has failed to fulfill the global goals to reduce the rates of anemia in women in reproductive age, babies born underweight, diabetes and obesity in men and women. It is also behind the global standard in collecting and reporting data regarding these issues. In fact, the country is not included in the Global Nutrition Report in the context of COVID-19, because the most recent figures in several of the goals studied by the report are from 2009.

Verificado por MonsterInsights