“Children Face Hunger Crisis In Venezuela as Malnutrition Soars”
Venezuela is facing a worsening crisis with widening poverty, food and medicine shortages and alarming rates of child malnutrition.
Caritas is concerned about the worsening humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and the severe impact it is having on thousands of men, women and children and their ability to survive.
Suzanna Tkalec, the Caritas Internationalis humanitarian director, said Venezuela is facing a worsening crisis with widening poverty, food and medicine shortages and alarming rates of child malnutrition.
Escalating violence and poverty have forced thousands of Venezuelans to cross the border every day and flee to neighbouring Colombia where they also live in dire conditions.
“The majority of people do not have access to adequate food,” said Tkalec, who visited Venezuela and Colombia in July to assess the situation.
Rates of malnutrition are on the rise and 54 percent of children have a certain level of nutritional deficiency.
“To purchase the minimum monthly food basket you need 12 basic salaries. Food is available in the stores, but the prices are unaffordable for the vast majority. It is common to see people on the streets in Caracas rummaging in garbage to find something to eat.”
Tkalec said Venezuela is only producing 30 percent of the food it requires and rampant inflation is driving prices to exhorbitant levels, making it even harder for people to buy food for their families.
Caritas says child malnutrition in parts of Venezuela has now reached a crisis. With the economy in freefall, shortages of food and medicine and soaring food prices, more than half of the country’s children under five in areas monitored by Caritas are suffering from some degree of malnutrition.
“Rates of malnutrition are on the rise and 54 percent of children have a certain level of nutritional deficiency,” Tkalec said.
“Among children under 5 Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) is at 8 percent and Severe Acute Malnutrition is at 3 percent. There is no infant formula for mothers who cannot breastfeed.”
Pope Francis recently expressed profound concern over the deteriorating situation in Venezuela and the rising number of people who have been killed, wounded or imprisoned by the government. The Vatican has appealed to all parties to end the violence and urged the Maduro administration to respect human rights while promoting peace and reconciliation.
The country’s health system is close to collapse. The crisis has led to critical shortages of drugs and rise in chronic diseases as well as malaria and diphtheria because there are no vaccines in the country.
“Health is the most heavily impacted sector,” said Tkalec. According to Medicos por la Salud, a local health NGO that collaborates with Caritas Venezuela, only 38 percent of essential drugs included in the WHO list exist in Venezuela and only 30 percent of drugs for basic infectious diseases are available in public hospitals.
Cases of diabetes have increased by 95 percent and hypertension by 92 percent in 2017 due to drug shortages. The incidence of post-natal mortality has tripled in 2017 while 114.000 people living with HIV/AIDS do not have access to essential drugs.
Caritas Venezuela has launched a programme to support food, water, health and nutrition for children under the age of 5 and has appealed for urgent donations to support the programme.
Caritas volunteers are supporting community soup kitchens in various Catholic dioceses across the country to provide meals to the most vulnerable.
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