Malnutrition continues to wreak havoc on the bulk of the population which, despite improvements, continues to resist a multidimensional crisis that prevents them from eating adequately.
This Thursday 24th, the NGO ‘Observatorio Social Humanitario’ (OBS, Humanitarian Social Observatory) met with a panel of experts on nutrition and food security to take stock of the situation that currently afflicts Venezuelans.
Dr. Maritza Landaeta, research and teaching coordinator of the ‘Bengoa’ Foundation, gave a dissertation about the average income of a Venezuelan family in relation to the cost of the food basket, which prevents access to quality food for balanced and basic food intake.
“We have to differentiate that there are several worlds in Venezuela, one thing is what we can have in Caracas and another in the interior of the country. (…) it is good to differentiate that acute malnutrition has a very large variability, you can get a community with 3% and another with 12 or 14%. The same with chronic malnutrition, which will not only cause growth retardation in the physical part, but also has an important component in the development of the human being (…) to the extent that we move away from the biggest populated centers of the country, where programs such as CLAP (Supply and Production Logistics Committee) arrive with some degree of regularity, the problem becomes much more complex,” she said.
She added that approximately 20% of pregnancies in Venezuela are of adolescent mothers, who begin with a nutritional deficit and that this directly impacts the development of the child, who are born with underweight and in the first years of their life development do not have an environment conducive to growth and healthy development.
For Ms. Landaeta, it is important to expand the radius of action, since she considers that the nutritional problem has a differentiated impact on the different sectors, so that vision must be incorporated not only in the diagnosis but also in the approach.
On her part, Lissette González, Coordinator of Research and Dissemination of the NGO ‘Provea’, presented the findings of her most recent report in which they denounce the lack of access to the basic food basket for the vast majority of the Venezuelan population.
Ms. González insisted that the Venezuelan State failed in its obligation to protect the right to food of Venezuelans, since it had to promote or enact measures in relation to the sanctions of third countries. “There were also no measures to protect the workers’ income. And another obligation is that imported food, both from the CLAPs and from the ‘bodegones’ (Deli and specialty markets), which do not comply with any of the sanitary controls of the Venezuelan State, so they are not protecting us,” she added.
She assured that, regarding the obligation to facilitate, the State did not dictate measures or design policies that make it possible to feed people “there is the issue of public services such as water scarcity, blackouts and cooking gas shortages, which have had a direct impact on the population’s ability to feed itself (…) on the other hand, the CLAPs are not distributed with the same regularity as in the past, nor do they contain nutritious and necessary food. (…) Regarding the ‘bonds of the country’ (government allowance giveaways), they are also insufficient and there is also no clear allocation criteria,” she said.
For the researcher, the denial of the humanitarian emergency by the Venezuelan State in different forums has harmed the entry of humanitarian aid into the country and therefore assistance to vulnerable groups was delayed. Currently the work of field programs continues to be restricted and the work of humanitarian organizations is criminalized.
Under this scenario, there are different civil society organizations trying to serve vulnerable groups.
For his part, Samuel Díaz, General Director of the NGO ‘Nutriendo el Futuro’ (Nurturing the Future), explained the work carried out by the organization in the town of ‘El Calvario’, Municipality of El Hatillo.
“We understand that the impact of a community kitchen is not measured by the amount of food that is distributed, but rather by the levels of malnutrition that have decreased. (…) 61% of our children today have weight and height in accordance with their age as should be. We would like it to be much more, but other aspects such as access to quality public services and access to water prevent it,” he pointed out.
He denounced the state of malnutrition with which Venezuelan children are growing up and its consequences for the future “the children who are growing up in Venezuela today are growing up with a significant caloric deficit, which is why their cognitive and physical development is being stunted, that is a challenge for us because we will have a generation will come to age with deficiencies when it comes to entering the labor market. An economy must be developed so that these people can be included and the development of the country is not diminished.”
To conclude, the researcher Lissette González warned that, although improvements in economic indicators have been observed, the Venezuelan State has stopped investing in public policies. “The economy recovers at the cost of a tremendous increase in inequality and a withdrawal of the State and the cessation of the rights of Venezuelans. The economy grows for a group that receives income in foreign exchange, etc. and the rest of the population is in a situation of increasing vulnerability,” she concluded.