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Venezuela: UN expert calls for human rights, not charity, to end hunger and malnutrition

14 February 2024

CARACAS (14 February 2024) – A UN expert today urged Venezuela to address root causes of hunger and malnutrition, citing reports that nearly 82 per cent of Venezuelans live in poverty and 53 per cent in extreme poverty, with incomes insufficient to access a basic food basket.

“Sanctions have been one factor, among others, constraining the Government’s fiscal capacity to implement social protection programmes and provide basic public services,” said Michael Fakhri, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, in a statement at the end of a 14-day visit to the country.

“I call on all relevant States to immediately review and lift sectorial sanctions imposed on Venezuela,” Fakhri said.

The expert expressed particular concern about the degree of hunger and malnutrition affecting children, women, older persons, students, persons with disabilities, Afro-descendants and Indigenous Peoples.

“Food insecurity, malnutrition and the deterioration of livelihoods have already led to mass migration from the country,” he said. “The future of Venezuela is at stake.”

The Special Rapporteur acknowledged the Government’s efforts to reduce its dependence on oil revenues and boost local production in rural, urban and peri-urban communities. “There was life in Venezuela before oil, and as the effects of climate change worsen, there must be life after oil,” he said.

“Venezuela’s best bet is to empower peasants, fishers, pastoralists, ranchers, urban and peri-urban farmers – especially women and Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples,” Fakhri said. “Not only will that enhance food sovereignty, but it will also improve local livelihoods.”

The expert noted that Venezuela created social programmes a few years ago as a temporary humanitarian response to the food crisis. “These programmes have now turned into a system of charitable handouts and have become susceptible to political patronage,” he said.

“What is needed, instead, is a national system that is based on the right to food and tackles the root causes of the problem. Hunger – and malnutrition – is a human rights issue,” he said.

The Special Rapporteur called on the Government of Venezuela to develop an urgent action plan on the right to food, based on existing legislation, through a socially inclusive process and existing participatory mechanisms.

“The right to food means that everyone has the right to be free from hunger and malnutrition,” Fakhri said.


Mr. Michael Fakhri was appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food in March 2020 and assumed his functions on 1 May 2020. Mr Fakhri is a professor at the University of Oregon School of Law where he teaches courses on human rights, food law, development, and commercial law. He is also the director of the Food Resiliency Project in the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.

Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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