Prevalence of malnutrition among children in Venezuela growing as economic crisis deepens

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Prevalence of malnutrition among children in Venezuela growing as economic crisis deepens

UNICEF urges coordinated national action to reach children most in need 

26 January 2018 – A growing number of children in Venezuela are suffering from malnutrition as a consequence of the protracted economic crisis affecting the country, UNICEF warned today. While precise figures are unavailable because of very limited official health or nutrition data, there are clear signs that the crisis is limiting children’s access to quality health services, medicines and food. The children’s agency went on to call for the rapid implementation of a short-term response to counter malnutrition, based on disaggregated data and coordinated between the Government and partners.

The most recent official figures released by the National Institute of Nutrition in 2009 showed that the prevalence of wasting (low weight to height ratio) in children under five was, at the time, 3.2 per cent. More recent nonofficial studies, however, have shown significantly higher rates of wasting among children. The 2016 Global Nutrition Report estimated a wasting prevalence of 4.1 per cent, while The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017 suggested that undernourishment (a measure of hunger indicating the proportion of population with inadequate energy consumption) in Venezuela has increased from 10.5 per cent to 13 per cent between 2004-06 and 2014-2016.

The Caritas quarterly report of August 2017 showed that 15.5 per cent of the children assessed had some level of wasting (compared to 11.1 per cent in the previous quarter), and an additional 20 per cent of children were at risk of malnutrition. The results of these more recent localized assessments, while not representative of the wider population, are an indication of the continued deterioration in the nutritional status of children. 

The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has implemented measures to mitigate the impact of the crisis on children’s nutrition, including the provision of monthly packages of food at affordable prices to the most vulnerable families, cash transfers, and strengthening of nutritional assessment and recuperation services. But more needs to be done to reverse the worrisome decline in children’s nutritional wellbeing.

UNICEF reiterates its readiness to strengthen support for Government and civil society partners to mitigate the impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable children.

UNICEF is collaborating with the Ministry of Health, National Institute of Nutrition and civil society organizations to strengthen and expand nutritional surveillance at the community level, provide nutritional recuperation services through partners, support five prioritized maternities in the Capital district, promote breastfeeding, and raise awareness of child rearing practices and referral procedures, among other key strategies. These are being implemented through activities such as nutrition screening days aiming to reach over 113,000 children, provision of supplementary and therapeutic foods when required, training programmes and communication campaigns.

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Notes to Editors

For more information, please contact:

Unicef UK Media Team, 0207 375 6030, media@unicef.org.uk
Morwenna Darby, +44 (0)20 7375 6030, morwennad@unicef.org.uk

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