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Venezuela’s economic crisis is so dire that most people have lost an average of 19 pounds

Venezuela’s multi-year economic crisis produces grim stories of scarcity and suffering month after month. Still, new data capturing the woes of the once well-heeled South American nation is shocking: According to new results from an annual national survey, nearly three-quarters of respondents reported losing an average of 19 pounds between 2015 and 2016.

That’s one of a number of astonishing findings from the country’s National Survey of Living Condition, which is conducted by three major Venezuelan universities and other research groups. The survey also found that the portion of respondents who said they ate two or fewer meals increased threefold, climbing from 11.3 percent in 2015 to 32.5 percent in the past year — around 9.6 million people in a country of roughly 30 million are eating at this rate. 

Venezuela has been unable to pull out of an economic tailspin that began in 2014, after oil prices around the world plunged. Combined with the government’s shortsighted fiscal policy and overreliance on imports that it can’t afford to keep up, the economy has ground to a halt. 

Inflation is skyrocketing — the International Monetary Fund estimates that the country’s inflation is expected to rise 1,660 percent this year and 2,880 percent next year. Shortages of food, medicine, and many basic items abound in what was once the richest country in South America per capita in the 20th century. Malaria is ravaging a country that was the first in the world to eliminate the disease in its populated areas. 

Now there’s evidence that the economic chaos is translating into a malnutrition crisis, with people increasingly struggling to secure food as they wait desperately for the economy to recover.

Patricia Couto