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Human Rights

Venezuelan kids are not getting enough to eat

Venezuela’s food crisis can be traced to its authoritarian socialist government

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro | Shutterstock

January 12, 2022 9:43pm

Updated: January 26, 2022 1:05pm

Mismanagement and corruption in Venezuela’s government have resulted in many of the country’s children going hungry, which has troubling implications for the country's future.

Malnutrition has resulted in many Venezuelan children who are too small for their age, according to reporting by KRWG, an NPR affiliate at New Mexico State University. A May 2021 survey found that 42% of over 46,000 measurements taken from children in the country’s poorest neighborhoods reflect shunting or wasting an indication of children that are too short or underweight.

"If you miss good nutrition up to age 6, most likely you will not develop your full physical and cognitive potential," said Susana Rico, acting director of the United Nations World Food Program in Venezuela.

She added that the rising number of malnourished children may have a negative impact on Venezuelan society and its economy decades from now.

"If you do not grow up to be as strong and healthy as you were genetically planned to be, you most likely will not be able to produce as much," Rico said, referring to physical abilities. "The same thing goes for your intellectual growth. So the economic effects are felt in 15 years, 20 years, when these children enter the workforce."

A local doctor said that kids fill up on carbs like bread and cereal because they are cheaper than meat and dairy.

Venezuela’s food crisis can be traced to its authoritarian socialist government. It is unique amongst other countries struggling with malnutrition in that it is not at war. In fact, it has an abundance of fertile land and large oil reserves that could be harnessed.

But corruption and mismanagement brought about an economic meltdown. The desperate government has implemented price controls and seized farms, which resulted in a food shortage.

President Nicolas Maduro was reluctant to seek outside help, as food distribution was a means to maintain control over the population and strengthen his political support. He relented in April 2021 by signing an agreement with the UN World Food Program to distribute meals to 1.5 million pre-school children with disabilities in Venezuela’s poorest areas.

Private charities have also stepped in.