Venezuela’s current economic recession has far more reaching consequences for the Venezuelan people than anticipated. At the beginning of 2010, inflation began to rise by over a thousand percent and the economy shrunk, resulting in low oil prices in 2015 and in food and oil shortages today. Perhaps the most devastating consequence is that the price of basic necessities skyrocketed, and hunger in Venezuela increased. Below are the facts about hunger in Venezuela.
Hunger in Venezuela Key Facts
- Food shortages are the country’s biggest problem. Across the country, poor and middle-class Venezuelans are unable to afford food and often must wait in long lines known as “colas” to find basic food like flour and rice. The government subsidizing of food in the country is limited, but the only affordable option.
- Malnutrition has increased. In the poorest segments of the population, especially in slums and areas of Caracas, malnutrition has increased greatly, as noted by many health workers. Often, families cannot afford two or three meals a day and those meals consist of just bread or banana.
- Smugglers provide food for the poorest. Despite the risk, the black market for food has exploded in the recent years of the crisis. Smugglers bring food from outside the country, and their goods are often the only ones that the poor can afford. Often, when mothers cannot feed newborns due to their own malnutrition, they procure formula from smugglers.
- Pets are also starving as a result. Since families cannot afford to feed themselves, many dogs and other pets have been left out to starve on the streets. Hunger in Venezuela has led these animals to search for scraps but their presence can pose a danger to public health.
- Venezuela has declined aid from the U.S. and the Amnesty International. Despite offers, the current Government of Venezuela under President Maduro has refused aid. Private charities have been allowed to help, but Maduro claims that socialism within the country will protect the citizens from starvation in the end.
- Maduro blames outside forces and pressures for the crisis. Maduro, who has been re-elected in May 2018, says the crisis is a problem from outside, not from Venezuela’s own government. His position has been greatly weakened by the hunger crisis in the country. As prices rise, desertion rises in the army and paramilitary groups have grown.
- Media coverage of the crisis has been critiqued as inaccurate. According to a 2016 report, in the course of the crisis, 93 percent of Venezuelans thought they did not have enough money to purchase food and had lost 19 pounds on average. But in the reports from the country were also the statistic numbers of 67.5 percent of Venezuelans that still ate three meals a day and only 25 percent of people felt their nutrition was inefficient. The conflict between these figures could imply that the crisis is not as terrible as reported, but the more positive statistics are rarely discussed in English speaking news reports, which rely more on anecdotal evidence of hunger in Venezuela.
- Venezuelan employers are trying to help workers. Since many employees come to work hungry, they cannot perform their best, so at some farms, farmers began providing meals for their workers while they are at work, in an effort to keep up productivity and prevent losing more employees to malnutrition. Since operating farms is more expensive now, the farmers have elected to pay their employees not with money, but with food, which is much more valuable for many families.
- Venezuelans in the U.S. are shipping food to relatives. Despite the grim facts, many relatives are determined to help their families combat hunger in Venezuela. In particular, communities in Miami, a common home for Venezuelan immigrants, have begun collecting food like rice, beans, and sugar. The shipping prices are often incredibly expensive, but mobilization has been made easier by social media efforts.
- Many charities send food to private organizations on the ground in Venezuela. Donations go to health institutions not affiliated with the Venezuelan government, as most of them do not trust the government. An effort is being made especially to help the most vulnerable, like native communities, nursing homes and special needs children’s organizations.
Perhaps the best news is that, despite the problems within Venezuela, the estimates of hunger in Venezuela are better than in other countries in the region. The percentage of Venezuelans below the poverty line is lower than in neighboring countries like Bolivia. With the mobilization of charities across the globe, the situation has improved for some people in Venezuela.
– Grace Gay