CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — One of every three people in Venezuela is struggling to put enough food on the table to meet minimum nutrition requirements as the nation’s severe economic contraction and political upheaval persists, according to a study published Sunday by the U.N. World Food Program.
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 one-third of the population – are moderately or severely food insecure, said the World Food Program’s 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, though certain states like Delta Amacuro, Amazonas and Falcon had especially high levels. 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.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has been largely reluctant in recent years to invite international organizations 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.”
“WFP looks forward to a continuation of its dialogue with the Venezuelan government and discussions that will focus on the way forward to provide assistance for those who are food insecure,” the agency said in a statement.
There was no immediate response to the findings by Maduro’s government.
The survey found that 74% 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% said they had accepted food as payment for work and 20% reported selling family assets to cover basic needs.
The issue appears to be one that is less about the availability of food and more about the difficulty in obtaining it. Seven in 10 reported that food could always be found but said it is difficult to purchase because of high prices. Thirty-seven percent reported they had lost their job or business as a result of Venezuela’s severe economic contraction.