Deployment 1

Name of sector: IYCF-E

Dates of deployment: 3 March – 15 March 2020 in country and 16 March – 12 April 2020 remote support

Reason for request:

Venezuelas economy contracted 48 per cent between 2013 and 2018 according to recent data released by the Central Bank of Venezuela. During the same period, non-oil imports are estimated to have fallen 86 per cent, whilst oil exports fell from $85 billion in 2013 to $30 billion in 2018. According to the Central Bank of Venezuela, based on the National Consumer Price Index, cumulative inflation rates for food and other basic products rose to over 1,000 per cent between December 2018 and April 2019. This continuous hyperinflation has significantly reduced peoples purchasing power and curtailed access to basic goods, including food items. Whilst food may be available in markets, many people, particularly the most vulnerable, cannot afford to purchase it due to high prices. Widespread fuel shortages were reported in June due to a reduction of fuel imports and insufficient local production. This hampered access to a wide range of essential services and impacted peoples livelihoods. Furthermore, it led to the suspension of humanitarian activities and programmes, with partners often struggling to access enough fuel to ensure the continuity their operations. Electricity and water provision are still limited in many states, especially outside of the Capital District, with rationing taking place with a detrimental impact on the functioning of health and education facilities across the country. Zulia is one of the most affected states, with reports of electricity being provided only for a few hours a day. On 22 July, a nationwide blackout occurred further compounding the challenges to service delivery, although contingencies were in place to minimize the humanitarian impact, especially in health centers. 

The quarterly report Crop Prospects and Food Situation, published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in September, cites 41 countries, including Venezuela, needing external assistance for food. The report highlights that in Venezuela hyperinflation has severely eroded local purchasing power, generating acute constraints on households access to food, while cereal production is expected to decline due to a lack of agricultural inputs.1 The percentage of global acute malnutrition reported for the month of September was higher than 5 per cent. 

In conversation with partners, it has been discovered there is a high prevalence of substandard infant and young child feeding practices among mothers and inadequate support provided to them by medical staff. For instance, paediatricians were more in favour of formulas than breastfeeding, a practice that is not sustainable in the long term owing to their high cost. This situation is compounded by breastmilk substitute (BMS) donations received from abroad and distributed by some organizations and government staff without following international protocols. 

The nutritional emergency response involves partners screening children under five, for the identification of children with severe (SAM) and moderate acute malnutrition (MAM). If the child is having no complications, he/she would be treated using the CMAM approach. Additionally, children between 6 and 59 months and pregnant and lactating women (PLW) are receiving deworming treatment; children under five and PLW micronutrient supplementation; and children nutrition supplementation to prevent acute malnutrition. The entire package of nutrition interventions is carried out mainly by health staff from primary health services supported by UNICEF and implementing partners. Community services and NGOs health centres also identify and treat cases of SAM and MAM as well as deworming, and micronutrient supplementation.  

One of the main obstacles facing the response is that medical and care personnel continue to leave the country, taking with them much needed capacity, including experience to prevent and respond to the nutritional and medical conditions of people in the health centers in which they worked. In response to this situation, partners continue to build the capacity of health professionals and other relevant stakeholders on nutritional assessment and response for Children under 5 and PLW, and other life-saving nutrition interventions to improve the quality of the nutrition services in prioritized states based on vulnerability. 

Key achievements:

  1. IYCF Stakeholders contact list established
  2. Capacity mapping of key staff conducted
  3. Facilitated an IYCF-E program and policy mapping exercise. Scoring tool for National level
  4. IYCF TWG setted up and ToR developped
  5. 5 days IYCF-E training materials translated, reviewed and adapted to the context
  6. Webinars on key aspects of IYCF-E programming conducted
  7. IYCF Action Plan
  8. Covid-19 & IYCF-E (nutrition) recommendations