Much has been written about Venezuelan hunger since the oil-rich country sank into economic chaos a few years ago. The strict food rationing, surging malnutrition and, in some extreme cases, starvation.

But if you’re not there on the ground, it’s difficult to comprehend what it truly looks and feels like up close—to see an old neighbor’s round face slowly hollow out or notice how your father’s favorite T-shirt hangs loosely on his shrinking frame.

So we photographed five Venezuelans—predominantly from the blue-collar neighborhoods that have been hit the hardest—and asked them to share pictures of their old, fuller selves. The changes in their physiques are stark. One person has lost 63 pounds. Another 78.

Some had been overweight, a testament in part to the typical Venezuelan diet: lots of fried and starchy foods, much of it served in dinners that run late into the night. One of them has even heard that she looks better now. She does not feel better. She feels just like the others: weak, defeated, depressed. To them, the narrow faces staring back in the mirror are a cruel and constant reminder of everything they’ve lost in the worst crisis that they, or their country, have ever known.

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