Nearly three-quarters of Venezuelans have lost weight over the past year, and the average loss was a huge 9kg, or nearly a stone and a half, according to a survey by the country’s top universities[1].”

When I read the above sentence a couple of days ago, I mentally accounted the fact that how imbalanced the world can be. Here I was, living in United States, where aisles upon aisles of food and  variety is available to me. On the other hand, just across the ocean, there is a country where the inflation rate is whooping 741% per month[2]. Venezuela has been undergoing a major economic crisis since 2012.

Capture

 Empty shelves in Caracas. Photograph: Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

Nicolás Maduro, the President of Venezuela, has assumed the tyrannical rule, where his new constituent assembly will be re-writing the nation’s charter. They would be doing so, after completely bypassing the Congress. He single handedly will be stripping any democracy left in the nation. To pay the country’s debts, the ruling party has dropped imports- including importing of food. Venezuelan economy thrived on Oil exports, however due to the decline in the oil prices, the country has been in an outstanding debt of remaining 25 billion dollars, with powerful allies like China. The terms of the contract are opaque, and to be repaid in oil. However, Venezuelans are not able to see the light of the day. There is no way to understand where the money is being spent?

There is no infrastructure development, no elevation of poverty, no construction in power plants! Only plans- and no actions on those plans. To top it up, corruption is on the all-time high. In 2013, 84 million dollars were appropriated and 8 people were arrested on the charges of corruption. [3] Since, China is reluctant to grant more loans, Maduro has turned towards Russia.

The poor remains hungry. The government of Venezuela provides a monthly bag of subsidized groceries and toiletries for little more than 1 dollar. It may be just enough for an individual, but not even close to sufficient for households with families. That is probably why, Venezuelans are fleeing to other South American countries, like Argentina.

Venezuela’s minimum wage for a month is 97,531 bolivars, or just over $10. At Rey David, a bottle of Aunt Jemima maple syrup goes for 95,230 bolivars.[4]

There is no money in the economy and there are no places to buy the food. There is not enough stock. Of course, there is plentiful of food available in the black market, but with an average hike of 1000%, where no normal working-class individual would go and buy.

If a woman becomes pregnant, there is no affordable care. If there is affordable care, then there is no equipment in the hospital for adequate help and treatment. If the child is born, there are high chances for that infant to die of malnutrition. There is no formula available in the market, the undernourishment of mothers is affecting the breast milk. The first 1000 days, post a child’s birth are critical as it is, but in the current state of Venezuela, it’s an immediate life and death situation.

Girls, as young as 12 and 13 years of age are adopting prostitution as a profession to support themselves and their families.

The average earning of a prostitute is around 400,000 bolivares, a month. Even though it is 4 times the minimum wage, it roughly amounts to $30.[5] 10 million people skip at least 1 meal per day, to feed their children. Many just get 1 meal per day to sustain.

A child of 12 or 13 years of age, needs nourishment to grow. The struggle is real. Often, we fail to realize how fortunate we have been to be able to feed ourselves. Food is the most necessary component of a person’s wellbeing. I cannot fathom, the horror of the mothers carrying their dead children.

Amidst all this, I ask myself, “How can we help?”

 

[1] Graham-Harrison, Emma. “Hunger eats away at Venezuela’s soul as its people struggle to survive.” The guardian, 26 Aug. 2017, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/26/nicolas-maduro-donald-trump-venezuela-hunger.

[2] “Inflation Rate.” Inflation Rate – Countries – List, tradingeconomics.com/country-list/inflation-rate.

[3] Ellsworth, Brian. “Venezuela seeks $5 billion China loan for scandal-Plagued fund.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 23 July 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/venezuela-china/venezuela-seeks-5-billion-china-loan-for-scandal-plagued-fund-idUSL1N0FT0N520130723.

[4] Gillespie, Patrick , and Stefano Pozzebon. “Venezuelans scramble for food, but it’s often out of reach.” CNNMoney, Cable News Network, 27 July 2017, money.cnn.com/2017/07/27/news/economy/venezuela-food-shortage/index.html.

[5] Graham-Harrison, Emma. “Hunger eats away at Venezuela’s soul as its people struggle to survive.” The guardian, 26 Aug. 2017, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/26/nicolas-maduro-donald-trump-venezuela-hunger.

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