At least four children are dying every week of starvation in the socialist dictatorship of Venezuela, newspaper outlet El Nacional has reported.
Figures released by the Venezuelan Society of Pediatrics and Child Care record 110 cases of severe malnutrition in hospitals in 2016, with that figure rising in 2017 as the country’s political, economic, and humanitarian crisis continues to deepen.
Amid the crisis, infant formula is no longer available to most children, while starved mothers fail to produce the required nutrients for natural feeding and have therefore turned to dangerous alternatives.
According to Gretnita Maestre, the president of civil association Mothers and Fathers for Children in Venezuela, many mothers are now resorting to donkey and goat milk, combined with a diet of boiled rice. However, these diets are failing to provide children with the necessary nutrients at the earliest stages of life and place them at a high risk of infection.
“In the first two years of life, growth is accelerated in size and brain development, which is why adequate nutrition is essential,” an anonymous nutritionist told El Nacional.
The shocking figures come amidst the country’s skyrocketing levels of inflation and chronic shortages of basic resources, including food, medicine, electricity, and sanitary products.
A 2017 poll found that 75 percent of Venezuelans reported losing “at least 19 pounds” in 2016, while 93 percent of Venezuelans said they do not have the money to secure three meals a day for themselves. The lack of food has led Venezuelans to refer to the starvation currently taking place under the country’s socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro as the “Maduro Diet.”
Just this week, another case was reported of people breaking into a zoo and stealing animals to combat their hunger.
“What we presume is that they (were taken) with the intention of eating them,” local police official Luis Morales told reporters.
Around 95 percent of basic medicines are also unavailable, and hundreds of thousands of sick and injured Venezuelans lack the necessary treatments for their medical conditions. Meanwhile, basic sanitary products such as toothpaste, toilet paper, shampoo, and toothpaste are also heavily rationed as people struggle to afford them.
Despite three increases in 2017, Venezuela’s minimum wage remains at 97,531 bolivars a month, equivalent to less than six dollars. The currency is also rapidly losing value, with inflation in Venezuela expected to rise by as much as 1500 percent this year.
In July, Maduro cemented his grip on power with the creation of a fraudulent lawmaking body known as the “national constituents assembly,” tasked with rewriting the country’s constitution. President Donald Trump has confirmed he is “not ruling out military options” as part of America’s response to the crisis.