Around half of Venezuelan children are now missing school due to hunger amid a devastating humanitarian crisis, El Universal has revealed.
The newspaper cites statistics from the latest Living Conditions Survey undertaken by three of the country’s universities, which found that there are now roughly 2.9 million children regularly missing classes due to lack of nutrition, or other problems such as lack of water, transport, or electricity.
General director of the Institute of Economic and Social Research of the UCAB, Anitza Freites, added that in some of the poorest states, three-quarters of students have taken time off school due to hunger.
Although schools have their own programs for feeding hungry children, the supplies rarely provide the necessary nutrition that most children need. Most of the deliveries do not cover all five days of the week, and on the days food is available there is a notable lack of protein, with most meals comprising of pasta, rice, and a sauce.
Many charities and aid workers are now stepping in to help improve food services in schools and reduce the rate of absenteeism.
“From January to date we have never had such high levels of absenteeism, that in some schools it is 50 and 60 percent,” said Luisa Pernalete, educator and coordinator of the Education for Peace program of Fe y Alegría, adding that many schools have stopped sports and physical education classes for fear of overexertion.
“The schools have sought alliances with NGOs, private companies, and representatives to take snacks to children, but it is necessary for the Government to guarantee a complete and balanced menu at the schools, we are monitoring daily the absence because it can turn into desertion,” she continued.
The staggeringly high rates of absenteeism in education are another symptom of the country’s devastating economic and humanitarian predicament, which has left millions of people starving and without basic living resources such as medicine, sanitary products, and electricity.
The crisis is a result of nearly 20 years of socialist governance, with the former revolutionary Hugo Chávez and his successor Nicolás Maduro recklessly spending the country’s oil revenues and destroying private enterprise. Although constantly fluctuating, the monthly minimum wage is now equivalent to well under $2 a month.
Venezuela is now also struggling under the pressure of economic sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union, a response to Maduro’s attempts to turn the country into a left-wing dictatorship modeled on Castro’s Cuba.
Amid the crisis, thousands of Venezuelans are now fleeing the country every day, mainly to Colombia and Brazil, in what is quickly becoming one of the world’s major migration crises.