In a new sign that Venezuela’s financial crisis is morphing dangerously into a humanitarian one, a new nationwide survey shows that in the past year nearly 75 percent of the population lost an average of 19 pounds for lack of food.
The extreme poor said they dropped even more weight than that.
The 2016 Living Conditions Survey (Encovi, for its name in Spanish), conducted among 6,500 families, also found that as many as 32.5 percent eat only once or twice a day — the figure was 11.3 just a year ago.
In all, 82 percent of the nation's households live in poverty, the study found.
Venezuelans suffer shortages of the most basic goods, from food to medicine, amid triple-digit inflation and a nearly 80 percent currency collapse in the last year.
A whopping 93.3 percent told Encovi researchers that their income was not enough to cover their food needs, which would explain why Venezuelans are replacing red and white meat with vegetables and tubers, mainly potato, and other cheaper options.
"There is a change in eating habits patterns from 2014 [when Encovi surveys began]. Previously Venezuelans consumed primarily rice, breads and pastas; now it’s tubers,” said Maritza Landaeta, a researcher with the Venezuelan Health Observatory, as quoted by runrun.es.
“In our qualitative studies we observed mothers who say that they fed their children only with bananas or auyamas [a kind of pumpkin] to satisfy their feeding needs,” she said.
Additionally, 65 percent of those surveyed admitted having children at home who had skipped school for food-related reasons — including filling in for their parents in the long food lines.
Venezuela’s food crisis has gotten so bad that remains of everything from dogs and cats to donkeys and even giant anteaters have been found in garbage bags at city dumps around the country.
“Sometimes we only find the animal’s heads, guts and legs. We used to see this very little in the past, but this practice is now out of control and on the rise,” Robert Linares, a Maracaibo waste disposal worker, told the Miami Herald. Linares added he recently found on the street the remains of a dog that had been skinned and dismembered.
The once-wealthy oil producing nation has fallen on hard times since Nicolás Maduro took power following the death of socialist leader Hugo Chávez in 2013. A drop in global oil prices has crippled the country’s economy and Venezuela has been plagued with the worst inflation rate in the world, close to 700 percent last year, according to International Monetary Fund.
The lack of food has even earned a nickname: “The Maduro Diet.”