With an accumulated contraction of GDP of 65.72% from 2013 to 2019 (1), a hyperinflationary cycle that has completed three consecutive years in which prices have increased by 4,460,732,956.9% since November 2017 (2), and a loss of value of the bolivar with respect to the dollar accumulated as of October 2020 of 928.42% (3), the economic depression that Venezuela is going through seems not to hit bottom and this, unfortunately, has worsened due to the COVID-19 virus in this year 2020. Since the health emergency was decreed in March of this year, the official data indicated that Venezuela has registered a total of 102,040 people who have contracted the virus, with a balance of 96,072 people recovered and 894 people dead (4).
Faced with this dark and bleak environment, it is no less logical to think that the living conditions of the Venezuelan citizens have progressively deteriorated. According to the results of the latest National Survey of Living Conditions (ENCOVI), it pointed out that for the first quarter of 2020 at least 80% of the citizens surveyed stopped having a healthy and varied diet, where it has been registered a deficit of 33.1 grs /d of the proteins required for an optimal diet and only reaching the minimum required consumption of daily calories.
In this note, we will present the study carried out by the Venezuelan nutritionist Susana Raffalli (5), which is based on the methodology of “the four dimensions of eating to have a healthy and healthy life” to describe how the prolonged economic crisis together with the COVID-19 virus pandemic has completely reduced the living conditions of Venezuelans, as well as compromising the physical and cognitive integrity of the country’s children.
Methodology of “the four dimensions of eating to have a healthy and healthy life” and results.
According to Raffalli, the dimensions of this methodology is the supply of adequate food both in quantity and quality, and that meets the characteristics of a balanced nutritional value, which is easily accessible and affordable. The second dimension is that the food supply must be consistent with the cultural pattern of the Venezuelan citizens; the third dimension is about people having access to information and spaces where a balanced diet is possible, and finally, the fourth dimension refers to the stability of the conditions outlined above. According to the study carried out by Raffalli, the supply of food in Venezuela has been seriously affected by the fall in imports of final consumption goods, the operational collapse of state-owned companies to complement the aggregate supply of goods and services in the country (5), the frequent interruptions of electricity services, the lack of provision of intermediate inputs for the agro-food sector, as well as the shortage of gasoline for the distribution of final products to markets, and the precarious purchasing power of Venezuelan workers.
Panel 1 Source: finanzasdigital.com, DolarToday, Federal Reserve Economic Data, actualidad-24.com, own calculations.
In addition to the aforementioned, and as can be seen in graph 1 of panel 1, the minimum wage in Venezuela is only enough to cover even 2% of the family food basket, which for this year 2020 ranges between US $ 300 and US $ 400 per month, despite the fact that it has also experienced decreases in its value due to the accelerated depreciation suffered by the exchange rate in Venezuela. Likewise, in 2020 (see graph 2 of panel 1), the average Venezuelan must earn an average of 77 minimum wages to be able to access the basic family consumption basket in its entirety. Regarding the dimension of the cultural patterns in which the diet of Venezuelans should be governed, these have not been severely altered in that the average Venezuelan has not had to adopt a pattern of consumption other than the one that came consuming (for example, even pre-cooked corn flour is still the preferred food of the entire Venezuelan population and this is the main raw material for making “arepas”, the most representative dish of the country). However, the poorest strata of the Venezuelan society have been forced to vary their eating habits, which (according to the results of the ENCOVI 2019-2020 seen on the image) are based on more consumption carbohydrates (processed flours, tubers) and lower consumption of proteins, dairy products, lipids, etc., compared to the higher income strata (7).
Graph 2 Source: Encuesta Nacional de Condiciones de Vida 2019-2020 (ENCOVI).
A nutrition crisis with a heavy burden on children
It should also be noted that this change in the way citizens eat, the most affected have been children under five years old. According to the Sentinel Monitoring of acute malnutrition and family food security of the Organization Cáritas Venezuela and the Alert, Monitoring and Attention System in Nutrition and Health (SAMAN), at least 50% of children under five years of age are on alert and at risk of acute malnutrition in Venezuela (see graph 3 of panel 2), with children under 24 months old being the most affected age group, reporting 36% of cases of acute malnutrition (as observed in graph 4 of panel 2).
Panel 2 Source: Cáritas Venezuela Organization and Alert, Monitoring and Attention System in Nutrition and Health (Sistema de Alerta, Monitoreo y Atención en Nutrición y Salud).
In the same vein, the COVID-19 pandemic ended up accelerating the process of deterioration of infant feeding in Venezuela. As can be seen in graph 5, the levels of moderate and severe acute malnutrition throughout the Venezuelan territory have increased significantly, especially the cases of children with global acute malnutrition, which went from 8.4% to 14.4% in the months in which the pandemic has elapsed. Another aspect to highlight is that children have exhibited some degree of delay in their linear growth due to lack of nutrition, a condition that could lead to irreversible problems throughout their adolescent and adult life.
Graph 5 Source: Cáritas Venezuela Organization and Alert, Monitoring and Attention System in Nutrition and Health (Sistema de Alerta, Monitoreo y Atención en Nutrición y Salud).
The efforts of the Maduro regime are mainly focused on the promotion and defense of his food program of the Local Supply and Production Committees (CLAP) (8), which works as a mechanism of social control over the population Venezuelan (9). Since the sanitary emergency was decreed in Venezuela, the Maduro regime has limited the delivery of food boxes and bags to the poorest communities in the country, and the few distributed has been done without clear planning or adequate technical equipment to adapt to the pandemic (10). However, during the last days before the parliamentary elections to be held on December 6, candidates of the regime have delivered boxes of food from the CLAP program to attract potential voters, as well as explicitly conditioning the distribution of such food boxes to the participation in the next voting (11).
From the previous discussion, it can be said that Venezuela does not fully comply with the three conditions described in the methodology of the “Four dimensions of food to have a healthy and healthy life”. The severe economic crisis generated by the terrible policies carried out by the Maduro regime, further exacerbated by trade sanctions on foreign oil sales (12) and the same COVID-19 virus pandemic has further impoverished the Venezuelan population. There is no credible plan for the reactivation of the Venezuelan productive apparatus, there are severe problems in the supply of basic services such as electricity, telecommunications, and drinking water; there are serious problems in the supply of gasoline, which significantly harms both the private consumer and the manufacturing industries and transportation service; and the latest prices of the family food basket (given the hyperinflation and the dollarization process as a result of it) have greatly affected the supply and demand of basic goods and services for citizens, forcing changes in their eating habits, which could bring irreversible health problems in the long term (cognitive problems, diabetes, hypertension, anemia, increased vulnerability to infectious and viral diseases), particularly for the most vulnerable including children.
Finally, the nutritionist Susana Raffalli recommended a series of measures that must be taken in the short, medium, and long term (e.g., increase on imports of consumption goods, massive supplementation campaigns for vitamin complexes, etc.). However, the implementation of such policies depends on policy changes that will only be possible to occur under a different government.
- Source: Central Bank of Venezuela, own calculations.
- Source: Central Bank of Venezuela, Permanent Commission of Finance and Economic Development of National Assembly of Venezuela, own calculations.
- Source: Federal Reserve Economic Data, own calculations.
- Figures updated as of November 29, 2020 (Source: https://efectococuyo/coronavirus/venezuela-registra-280-contagiados-y-dos-fallecidos-por-covid-19-este-29nov/).
- This note on base on her article published on the Crónica Uno portal: “Malnutrition in Venezuela has risen to levels not seen since 2017”, dated November 18, 2020.
- According to information from Ecoanalítica firm, imports in Venezuela went from registering up to US$ 15,000 per quarter to US$ 6,000 on a single year, recording approximately a drop of 86.7% for this year 2020 (see: https://www.elimpulso.com/2020/11/20/asdrubal-oliveros-la-caidaa-del-ingreso-petrolero-y-la-hiperinflacion-impulsan-alza-del-tipo-de-cambio-20nov/).
- According to the image showed above, quintile 1 is the poorest stratum while quintile 5 is the richest stratum.
- They are food distribution committees promoted by the Chavista regime since 2017, where communities produce and supply themselves with basic necessities products, through the house-to-hose distribution mechanism.
- See: https://transparencia.org.ve/casi-la-mitad-de-los-alimentos-en-venezuela-se-pierde-por-corrupcion-y-falta-de-politicas-eficientes/.
- It is worth noting that for the cities of Caracas and La Guaira (north), the access of citizens to the CLAP boxes has been more restricted, where practically 100% of the inhabitants of the capital city have registered not having access to the service of diet of the Maduro regime, while 51% of the inhabitants of the coastal city affirm that they do not receive food bags either (source: Cáritas Venezuela Organization and Alert, Monitoring and Attention System in Nutrition and Health).
- It is worth mentioning that the upcoming elections on December 6, 2020 will not be recognized by International Community as they are considered illegitimate and fraudulent. See: https://www.cronica.uno/opositores-denunciaron-puntos-rojos-y-uso-partidista-de-los-clap-en-simulacro-del-cne/%famp_markup=1