One of every three people in Venezuela is struggling to find enough food to meet minimum nutrition requirements as the nation’s severe economic contraction and political upheaval persists, according to a new study by the UN World Food Programme.
A nationwide survey based on data from 8,375 questionnaires reveals a startling picture of the large number of Venezuelans surviving off a diet consisting largely of tubers and beans as hyperinflation renders many salaries worthless.
A total of 9.3 million people – roughly a third of the population – are moderately or severely food insecure, said the study, which was conducted at the invitation of the Venezuelan government. Food insecurity is defined as an individual being unable to meet basic dietary needs.
The study describes food insecurity as a nationwide concern but even in more prosperous regions one in five people are estimated to be food insecure.
“The reality of this report shows the gravity of the social, economic and political crisis in our country,” said Miguel Pizarro, a Venezuelan opposition leader.
Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, has been largely reluctant to invite international organisations to provide assessments of the nation’s humanitarian ordeal, though the World Food Program said it was granted “full independence” and collected data throughout the country “without any impediment or obstruction”.
There was no immediate response to the findings by Maduro’s government.
The survey found that 74 percent of families have adopted “food-related coping strategies”, such as reducing the variety and quality of food they eat. Sixty percent of households reported cutting portion sizes in meals, 33 percent said they had accepted food as payment for work and 20 percent reported selling family assets to cover basic needs.