Maria S. Tapia, Gioconda San-Blas, Carlos Machado-Allison, Andrés Carmona and Maritza Landaeta-Jiménez
Keywords: Venezuela, food security, food system, food safety, nutrition, prevalence of undernourishment, humanitarian emergency
Venezuela has suffered a massive shift in status. Once considered an affluent nation with the largest proven fossil-fuel reserves in the world, and classified as an upper-middle income country, declines in oil production, fuel availability and flawed macroeconomic decisions, disrupted all sectors of the economy. A large proportion of the population had ready access to food, health services, clean drinking water, sanitation, domestic gas, electricity, fuel, and transport, but declines in food production, real income, and living conditions have generated malnutrition and food insecurity, forcing complex survival strategies. All this gave rise to a humanitarian space.
In 2019, this space was expanded through the installation of the international humanitarian coordination architecture of the UN. Under the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), a country team and eight clusters were established: food security/livelihoods; water/sanitation/hygiene; education; nutrition; health; protection; shelter/energy/non-food items and logistics. OCHA indicates the humanitarian situation has not abated following six consecutive years of economic contraction, inflation/hyperinflation, political/social/institutional tensions, the COVID-19 pandemic and international sanctions.
According to The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) people continue to leave the country to escape violence, insecurity, and threats as well as a lack of food, medicine, and essential services, becoming one of the largest displacement crises in the world, with 5.9 million seeking better conditions elsewhere.
The prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) has increased almost 4-fold: from 6.4% in 2012–2014 to 21.2% in 2016–2018 (Figure 1). During the same recession period, reported inflation reached circa 10 million percent and growth in the real GDP worsened, going from negative 3.9 percent in 2014 to an estimated negative 25 percent in 2018 (FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO, 2019). Figure 1 shows a sustained increase in PoU since 2009. This would appear to repudiate, or at least not corroborate official claims attributing PoU to sanctions in place since 2017.