Anja Bless – Senior Editor
In Venezuela, the cost of basic supplies is expected to increase by 1,000 percent by the end of August – putting necessities such as food and medicine out of the reach of many.
The country is in the midst of a deep economic recession this year due to the rapid fall of the international oil prices and decades of economic mismanagement. Now, it is struggling to even feed its 30 million people. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has labelled the situation in Venezuela as a “humanitarian crisis“.
Trucks drive along the streets displaying signs saying “We are not transporting food” and supermarket shelves are empty as citizens are forced to raid schools and even kill zoo animals in order to survive.
In June more than 400 people filled the streets of Caracas chanting “We want food”, proceeding to loot at least 20 businesses. In July, 7 people were killed and more than 37 were injured in another surge of violent protests and looting.
And in a true expression of their desperation, citizens are becoming increasingly creative in their food sources. There are reports of consistent robberies of school canteens which is likely to be contributing to the ever-growing number of schools which are no longer serving free meals to students – leaving many children to go hungry.
Another novelty way by which citizens of Venezuela have begun sourcing their food is by stealing and slaughtering zoo animals. A black stallion from Carcuao Zoo in Caracas was killed by hungry locals who left behind only its head and ribs and earlier this month sheep and pigs were also stolen from the zoo. It may however be a way of putting some of the animals out of their misery as zoo officials admit that due to food shortages some animals have not eaten “for up to 15 days” and that due to a lack of meat supply they are feeding carnivores with mangoes and pumpkin.
Many are looking outside Venezuela for food supplies. Thousands crossed the border into Colombia to buy food and medicine after 5 pedestrian border crossings were opened. The hungry citizens formed long queues as they tried to make it within the 12 hour window that pedestrians are able to cross.
There have been serious concerns raised over the long-term effects of lack of food and the availability of a balanced diet.
By the numbers:
- A recent survey suggests that 87 percent of citizens do not have sufficient income to purchase food.
- A study of nearly 1,500 families revealed that there has been a significant rise in the presence of carbohydrates in Venezuelan diets (in the place of protein)
- 12 percent of the country were not able to eat three meals a day.
- A minimum wage in Venezuela is now only able to meet 20 percent of the cost of feeding a family of five.
Thanks to severe shortages and exorbitant prices Venezuelans are being forced to forsake a balanced diet and use whatever they can find. The main sources of protein in their diet – milk, meat and beans – are either too expensive or too hard to find and this had led many to fill themselves up on empty carbohydrates in an attempt to feel fuller.
As usual children and the elderly are suffering most. A sampling of 4,000 school children found that 30 percent were malnourished and that school absences had increased. Future predictions for these children are that they will struggle with obesity due to the high level of carbohydrates and also have stunted growth due a decreased intake of calcium.
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Venezuela: Out of food, money, and time – Venezuela’s economic mismanagement is so bad that the government is now unable to feed its people.
Marks of a desperate government
Part of the problem is that Venezuela is unable to produce enough food for itself anymore, in fact it is struggling to produce any food at all.
Due to the shortage of seeds and agrochemicals has meant that only 25 percent of agricultural land is being farmed . And whilst domestic production falls, so too do food imports. The Minister of Industry has told Reuters that they are likely to plummet by 60 percent this year.
Meanwhile, political opposition is attempting to organize a recall referendum which will bring about another election in an attempt to boot the current president. The president, meanwhile, is blaming both the US government and private business interests for the crisis, alleging they wish to ‘bury’ the socialist legacy of his predecessor President Hugo Chavez.
In an attempt to gain more supplies the Venezuelan government has allowed Jamaica to repay part of its oil debt in the form of food. Around US$3 million worth of food shall be given to Venezuela from its Caribbean neighbor.
Food is not the only problem for the Venezuelan government. Drought has severely reduced water levels in the country’s main dam and hydro-electric plant, which accounts for around two-thirds of the country’s electricity supply. In an attempt to save energy President Maduro has been imposing 2 day work weeks for government employees and has also moved the country into a different timezone.
However the food crisis continues with no apparent end in sight and a question hangs in the air – how did a country with so much potential for wealth and growth, so quickly find rock bottom?
For a more detailed analysis on the demise of Venezuela see below:
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