In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and considering the situation of food insecurity that exists in our country, “5 a day Venezuela” launches its campaign #TakeTWOhandInHand (#TomaDOSdelaMano), on the route to FIVE with hygiene, health & solidarity. The campaign is aimed to promote consumption of at least one (1) fruit and one (1) vegetable a day, for better nutrition to help support the good functioning of the immune system in times of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
As we all know, fruit and vegetables are important components of a healthy diet, and their sufficient daily consumption could help prevent major diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and certain cancers. Also, F&V provide key nutrients for the proper functioning of the immune system. Because of this, the World Health Organization has long recommended consuming five (5) servings of F&V for a total of 400 g daily, ideally 600 g. This recommendation has made the motto “5 a day” popular worldwide to promote consumption in the right proportions.
F&V are recognized for their low caloric content and their high content of fiber, micronutrients, water and bioactive components, such as vitamins A, C, E, K, B6, folic acid, potassium and magnesium, beta carotene, phenolic compounds and flavonoids, which generally play a fundamental role for an adequate immune response. Also, they are key factors to other vital processes. That is why guaranteeing the consumption of at least 3 servings of fruit and 2 of vegetables a day (5 a day), is a widely disseminated recommendation in the guidelines of several countries for healthy food and nutrition in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fruits and vegetables and food security in Venezuela
For several years we have been deeply concerned in Venezuela about the impossibility of complying with that recommendation, to the point that in 2018, during the General Assembly of the Global Alliance for the Promotion of the Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables “5 a day” (AIAM-5), a forum for international collaboration between the Associations and Movements “5 a day” worldwide, “5 al día Venezuela” declared with great regret that, given the country’s dramatic food, nutritional and economic situation, promoting the consumption of 5 servings of F&V was deemed as an unrealistic task. We felt that it could result cruel or burlesque since it was an unattainable goal for the majority of the impoverished Venezuelan population, given the rampant hyperinflation, high prices of produce, and their absence from social food distribution programs.
According to the recent report of the World Food Program on Venezuela, (February 2020) of the United Nations, around 9.3 million Venezuelans were food insecure in 2019. According to the 2020 Global Report on Food Crisis generated by the Food Security Information Network (FSIN), Venezuela represents the fourth largest food crisis with those 9.3 million people in acute food insecurity in need of urgent food assistance.
On March 3, 2020, the first report “Crop Prospects and Food Situation” of 2020 was published. The report indicates that 44 countries, of which 34 are in Africa, continue to be in need of external food assistance. In total, only two (2) countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are registered with food insecurity (Venezuela and Haiti).
Very shortly, another relevant anual report will be published in 2020: The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” (SOFI). According to last year’s SOFI 2019, South America hosts the majority (55 percent) of the undernourished in the region, and the increase observed in recent years is due mainly to the deterioration of food security in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, where the prevalence of undernourishment increased almost fourfold, from 6.4 percent in 2012–2014 to 21.2 percent in 2016–2018. Venezuela’s significant increase in undernourishment in recent years coincides with the country’s recession period, as inflation was reported to have reached circa 10 million percent and growth in the real GDP worsened, going from negative 3.9 percent in 2014 to an estimated negative 25 percent in 2018.
According to the National Survey of Food Consumption (ENCA), April-June 2013, from the National Statistics Institute (No. 2, 2014), the last official report published, the average daily consumption of F&V was: 150.36 g / day (fruits: 108.13 g, vegetables: 42.23 g), which was already quite low considering the recommendation of 400 grams in the 5 portions established by the World Health Organization and promoted by AIAM-5.
Additionally, the Venezuelan Living Conditions Survey, ENCOVI, (2017) shows that only 2 out of 10 households include F&V among their purchase options, which translates into an inadequate, insufficient and monotonous diet.
This situation has been dramatically worsened in the face of the pandemic. While FAO Director-General QU Dongyu has stressed the importance of keeping food supply chains open in times of the COVID-19 pandemic, in Venezuela, agricultural producers, producer associations and farmer organizations have warned of the serious risk that the current shortage of gasoline in the entire territory implies for the food distribution chain, which could generate a notable increase in the shortage of essential foods such as vegetables, fruits, and proteins.
The National Academy of Physics, Mathematics and Naturals Sciences (ACFIMAN) published a statement to this effect that calls on the national government to guarantee the diet of the population in a country where food security was already seriously compromised. The Academy exhorts to facilitating the transportation of food, fresh or processed, throughout the national territory by intra and interstate coordination, the reduction of paperwork procedures, the availability of fuel, water and energy, along with harmony between the health authorities and those related to food, together with the support of specialists and unions.
#TakeTWOhandInHand / #TomaDOSdelaMano
Given the socio-economic panorama of the country which hinders compliance with global recommendations, Foundation “5 a day Venezuela” proposes the #TakeTWOhandInHand / #TomaDOSdelaMano) campaign.
Making an analogy with the 5 servings of F&V using the 5 fingers of a hand, fruit and vegetables represent two of them while the other three fingers symbolize hygiene, health and solidarity, all fundamental for the fight against this new coronavirus.
This educational strategy seeks that Venezuelans recognize the importance of F&V and take at least 2 of the 5 recommended servings, praising them to strive to eat F&V.
We know that one (1) fruit and one (1) vegetable daily is not enough, but the strategy tries to raise awareness about the need to consume this food group so important and so underrated on many occasions, as well as fostering diversity and nutrition in the diet through the intake of essential nutrients from F&V.
The image of the campaign shows two clean hands (hygiene), which are separated, but want to be closer, representing social distancing (health promotion/disease prevention) and the action of offering a hand represents the open and helpful spirit of Venezuelans (solidarity). The final action calls for #TakeTWOhandInHand /#TomaDOSdelaMano, (take two), a fruit and a vegetable in each hand. In the center, five F&V are separated by dotted lines to indicate the route to reach the goal of 5 servings daily. Five different colors call on diverse and nutritious F&V.
We are all invited to join this campaign inviting to eat at least one fruit and one vegetable a day, sharing information, maintaining hygiene, taking care of our health and being supportive. Seasonal fruits are welcome.
Likewise, this is a step towards the celebration of the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables in 2021 approved by the United Nations General Assembly on December 19, 2019.
Without healthy diets, we cannot hope to end malnutrition, and we will not eradicate hunger unless we curb food losses. By highlighting the value of fruit and vegetables, and the damage caused by loss and waste, the UN has taken a decisive step to promote fairer, greener, more efficient food systems. Maria Helena Semedo. FAO Deputy Director-General for Climate and Natural Resources.
On behalf of Fundación 5 al día Venezuela we thank you in advance for helping us spread and practice the campaign.
Pablo Hernández, Claret Mata and María S. Tapia
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