Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has urged women to have six children “for the good of the country”.
Appearing at a televised event promoting a national women’s healthcare plan, Mr Maduro instructed women to “give birth, give birth”.
The country is facing an economic crisis which has resulted in severe food and medicine shortages.
Between 2013 and 2018, 13% of Venezuelan children were malnourished, says UN children’s agency Unicef.
A bitter power struggle between the government and the opposition has exacerbated the country’s trials.
Opposition leader Juan Guaidó is considered the legitimate leader of Venezuela by more than 50 countries. But President Maduro, the country’s left-wing leader who enjoys the support of the Venezuelan military, has remained in power.
“May God bless you for having given life to six little girls and boys”, Mr Maduro told a woman who attended the healthcare event.
“Every woman should have six children for the good of the country”, he said, adding that it was “women’s week”, a reference to International Women’s Day on 8 March.
Supporters of Mr Guaidó responded angrily on Twitter. Manuela Bolivar, a member of the opposition-controlled National Assembly said in a tweet: “Hospitals are not functioning, vaccines are scarce, women cannot breastfeed because they are malnourished or buy baby formula because it is unaffordable, and the country faces forced migration due to the humanitarian emergency.
“Maduro and all of his regime who say this have psychological dissociation.”
What is the situation like for families in Venezuela?
One in three Venezuelans is struggling to put enough food on the table to meet minimum nutrition requirements, according to a study by the UN World Food Programme.
Amid the economic crisis, one charity said in 2018 that it had seen the number of babies abandoned in the streets or left at the entrances of public buildings increase by 70%.
The Venezuelan government has not released any official figures in recent years.