Alimentación y nutriciónCHE intensityCivil Society

Recent Patterns of Stunting and Wasting in Venezuelan Children: Programming Implications for a Protracted Crisis | via: Frontiers

Susana Raffalli, Carlos Villalobos | May 12, 2021

Implications for Programming

Our findings suggest the need for a stronger way of working in our humanitarian programs that includes more long-term approaches, more networks, and expanded support for addressing the challenge of the persistency of acute malnutrition and the increasing rates of stunting, based on strategies with explicit nutritional goals.

Children are admitted to and discharged from Caritas’ Points of Care and from other programs already stunted. Even if the stunting is more difficult to reverse over the usual timeframe of humanitarian response, it is hoped that within the areas of targeting criteria, enrollment and discharge protocols, and preventive interventions there will be new possibilities for programming aimed at protecting children identified as moderately stunted against further deterioration. Both wasting and stunting should be managed as a priority issue, especially for a preventive/protective approach.

The programming targets in such a fragile and protracted crisis as Venezuela should focus not only on livelihoods and food resilience, but especially on nutritional resilience to prevent further growth decline, including the management of stunting drivers within the policy and programming scope.

The findings on the pattern of wasting and stunting by age indicate the necessity of focusing on both preventive and therapeutic intervention in children under 2 years of age as well as in pregnant and lactating women.

Predictability should be integrated into humanitarian programming. Humanitarian inputs, logistics, and personnel should be anticipated and located well before the period of highest wasting prevalence (first half of the year), especially in the face of upcoming mobility restrictions due to further outbreaks of Covid-19 and/or further crisis in the access to gasoline and public transportation.

A sound humanitarian response directed toward nutritional protection is relevant for both girls and boys, but it is crucial to have a broader understanding of cultural drivers that explain the negative bias toward boys.

The severity of the damage and the protracted character of the Venezuelan crisis demand a humanitarian response on preventive and therapeutic lines, articulating interventions that target not only the drivers of food insecurity, but also nutritional demands. The mitigation of the risks to health and care capacities for maternal and child nutrition is also central. The management of acute malnutrition is important but not enough.

The priorities should be supporting women in effective breastfeeding; protecting maternal nutrition and health; social protection measures for improving household food security and livelihoods, as well as dietary diversity; early detection and management of acute malnutrition; protecting the micronutrient status while food insecurity is severe; and strengthening access to safe water.

In order to address these priorities, humanitarian teams should overcome obstacles such as the usual reliance on short-term funding, funding biased toward food aid, stunting being seen as anything but a development issue tackled by livelihood interventions, extremely challenging operating contexts, and the lack of an evidence base for stunting prevention in these contexts.

It is not only the severity of the crisis, but also the velocity of Venezuela’s nutritional deterioration which is a true catastrophe. This is an indication that the situation in Venezuela should be rigorously monitored and broadcasted. Venezuela’s deterioration is not isolated. If this rapid trend of decline continues without a strong national and regional response, the regressive impact will be on the food security and nutrition goals of the entire Latin-American region.

The opportunity is for the academies, the scientific community, international cooperation, donors, UN agencies, and for the state to support, compel, and guarantee the protection of the ultimate right to food and nutrition of Venezuela’s children.

To see the full study, please click here.