Friday April 3, 2020

1 in 3 People in Venezuela Face Hunger: U.N. Report

UN Study: 1 of every 3 Venezuelans are struggling to get their food

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One of every three people in Venezuela is struggling to put enough food on the table and is facinf hunger. Lifetime Stock

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 and face hunger, 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 and face hunger, 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.

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The increasing food insecurity and hunger issues are increasing due to rising price of crops. Wikimedia Commons

“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.

Venezuela has been in the throes of a political and humanitarian crisis that has led over 4.5 million people to flee in recent years. Maduro has managed to keep his grip on power despite a push by opposition leader Juan Guaidó to remove him from office and mounting U.S. sanctions.

Maduro frequently blames the Trump administration for his nation’s woes, and his government has urged the International Criminal Court to open an investigation, alleging that the financial sanctions are causing suffering and even death. The nation’s struggles to feed citizens and provide adequate medical care predate U.S. sanctions on the Venezuelan government.

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Dugleidi Salcedo complains to a neighbor about the high price of food as she prepares arepas for her three sons in her kitchen in the Petare slum, in Caracas, Venezuela. VOA

In addition to food, the survey also looked at interruptions in access to electricity and water, finding that four in 10 households experience daily power cuts. Four in 10 also reported recurrent interruptions in water service, further complicating daily life.

Noting that the survey was done in July through September, Carolina Fernández, a Venezuelan rights advocate who works with vulnerable women, said she believes the situation has deteriorated even more. While it was once possible for many families to survive off remittances sent by relatives abroad, she said, that has become more difficult as much of the economy is dollarized and prices rise.

“Now it’s not enough to have one person living abroad,” she said.

Fernández said food insecurity is likely to have an enduring impact on a generation of young Venezuelans going hungry during formative years.

“We’re talking about children who are going to have long-term problems because they’re not eating adequately,” she said.

Those who are going hungry include people like Yonni Gutiérrez, 56, who was standing outside a restaurant that sells roasted chickens in Caracas on Sunday.

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The unemployed man approached the restaurant’s front door whenever a customer left with a bag of food, hoping they might share something. He said he previously had been able to scrape by helping unload trucks at a market, but the business that employed him closed.

“Sometimes, with a little luck, I get something good,” he said of his restaurant stakeout. (VOA)

Next Story

Battling Hunger Crisis Along with Coronavirus

The fight against hunger and COVID-19

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In such a crisis situation, various private players and non-profitable organisations have also taken initiative and are providing meals and raising funds to the people facing hunger. IANS

BY PUJA GUPTA

“Corono can kill us only when we will be alive,” grieved Basbeer Ahmed, a daily-wage labourer who has lost his job due to the nationwide lockdown in the country and is struggling to manage two-time meals for his family.

“Hunger will kill us first, forget coronavirus. I used to earn on a daily basis and somehow managed to fed my two daughters with whatever I could manage with the small amount of money I would earn. But that income is gone now. Whatever I had saved is also finished. Today I am left with nothing. There is no work, no food,” he said.

Like Ahmed, several daily-wagers working at construction sites, retail outlets, restaurants, food and their hyperlocal delivery partners and local transport systems have lost their livelihood because of the shutdown in the country till April 14, taken as a precautionary measure against the spread of the pandemic Covid-19.

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The fight against hunger

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Amid the lockdown, volunteers take to battling hunger crisis. IANS

Even though the central and state governments have rolled out various measures to ensure no one in the country sleeps empty stomach, looking at the dense population in a country like India, it becomes a herculean task to achieve.

In such a crisis situation, various private players and non-profitable organisations have also taken initiative and are providing meals and raising funds to the people in distress.

Zomato has initiated a project called the �Feed the Daily Wager’ to raise funds to provide food support to families who used to survive on daily wages and help them have a reliable supply of meals in the absence of employment opportunities.

“We are fundraising to enable the purchase of essentials such as atta, dal and chawal for slums and migrant labours. Along with partner NGOs, we will formulate the responsible delivery of these essentials to those in need,” said the company spokesperson.

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According to the figures available on their website, Rs 14,92,97,971 of Rs 50 crore goal have been raised. You can also donate and choose to support one family (Rs 500), three families (Rs 1,500), five families (Rs 2,500) or any amount by logging on at https://www.feedingindia.org/donate.

“Youth Feed India” is another such initiative with the mission of #HelpTheHungry. It was started by Shaaz Mehmood (Hyderabad), Tanya Mallavarapu Reddy (Chennai) and Deepti Katragadda Reddy (Bangalore) few days back and has raised Rs 75 lakh funds in the first phase.

The project aims to “ensure that the Indian daily wage worker, migrant laborer, and single mothers who are out of work due to the lock down are provided basic food to survive this challenging period”.

The movement till now has touched over 20,000 underprivileged Indians and aims to help over 40,000 more. Each care package that they put together costs around Rs 500 to feed a family for nearly a week.

Donate today for distribution in Hyderabad, Delhi, Gurgaon, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai through logging on at www.ketto.org/fundraiser/SAFAforCorona or https://pages.razorpay.com/Covid19Relief or through direct account payment.

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“This is our youth generation’s World War 3 and we play a role to create responsible action to support government initiatives. Every community should have a Youth Feed India programme. Solving the starvation problem is in our hands,” said Mehmood.

Rasoi On Wheels Foundation, which is a mobile kitchen service started three years back, is providing healthy, nutritious, tasty, wholesome and hygienic packed meal boxes to the “less privileged” people during these testing times. They are also distributing packed atta, rice, dal and oil to needy families in Delhi.

The organisation was earlier providing around 2,500-3,000 food packets which has now been increased to almost 10,000 boxes, being distributed in Delhi and NCR, said Atul Kapur, founder of the foundation.

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“Hunger will kill us first, forget coronavirus,” says a daily-wage labourer. IANS

You can also donate to the cause. The cost of one meal is Rs 31, so you can donate for as many as you want. Log on to their website rasoionwheels.com or pay through Paytm on 9811982272/9811015420. You can also transfer the amount directly to their bank account.

Another pan-India voluntary group called Caremongers India is also raising funds, especially for the elderly population. As people above 60 years are more vulnerable and are easy targets for the virus to get infected it, special care has to be given to the elderly people apart from keeping them indoor and maintain social distancing.

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If you are (or know) a citizen in need, you can register to their Pan-India Citizen database at https://forms.gle/5gsWUH7pUS8GTsiYA. All details will be maintained with the strictest confidentiality. Their volunteers will be in touch with you regularly to ensure that your needs are met.

If you’d like to volunteer, fill in your details at https://forms.gle/UPsZP2hxTkGDNqLP8. (IANS)