Since Hugo Chavez declared his ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ in 1999, Venezuela has become entirely dependent on imported food. In 2014, it was estimated that 70% of all goods, including food, were imported from abroad. Several years’ mismanagement of Venezuela’s key oil industry has crippled the country financially, especially since oil prices halved in 2014. Price controls on basic foodstuffs, as well as strict controls on the ability to convert bolivars to dollars, has made food unaffordable for most Venezuelans. Many Venezuelan companies cannot afford to produce food for the price set by the state, and have simply gone out of business.
As an example of just how severe the crisis has become, the monthly minimum wage can feed a family for less than a day. Around 10 million Venezuelans, or a third of the population, are on the minimum wage. Even for those who earn more, living has become a daily struggle: one would need 55 times the minimum wage to feed a family for month.
The impact on the country’s health has been devastating. Venezuelans reported losing an average of 8kg in 2016, and 11kg in 2017; more is expected as hyperinflation destroys Venezuela’s currency. Around 8 million Venezuelans only eat two meals or fewer a day. Children under 5 are most at risk during this crisis: the charity Caritas have estimated that half are suffering from malnutrition or are at severe risk. In 2018 alone, 300,000 child deaths have been linked to malnutrition.
Most Venezuelans are now anemic as their diet lacks the iron usually found in meat, green leafy vegetables and maize flour, which have all become increasingly scarce. Medical conditions linked to malnutrition are on the rise, and Venezuela’s hospital’s are unable to cope as they too suffer from shortages made worse by an embargo on international aid.
This is happening now. The Venezuelan people are running out of ways to cope with the severe lack of food. Whatever needs to be done, must be done soon.
More information on the Venezuela Campaign can be found on their website.