CARACAS, VENEZUELA – Six months ago, Marta’s husband quit his job as a laborer in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas. Rampant inflation meant his salary was no longer enough to afford even basic items. Meanwhile, the biweekly food subsidies the family had been receiving from the government were becoming more and more erratic.
Now, with her 18-month-old child strapped to her back, Marta spends much of her day checking dumpsters for food. “People see me with the baby and sometimes they give me milk or something to eat,” said Marta, who asked that her last name not be used to protect her privacy. “Otherwise we could not buy it because in the supermarkets, it is too expensive.”
Stories like Marta’s are becoming more common across Venezuela, according to independent experts monitoring the situation. A local Catholic relief agency, the Caritas Foundation, estimates there could be as many as 280,000 malnutrition-related deaths this year among children.
This is one of the results of Venezuela’s economic collapse over the past five years. An economy almost wholly dependent on oil sales was unable to recover when global crude prices dropped, forcing the government to take on massive debt and spurring runaway inflation. The national assembly estimates that prices in the country jumped 2,616 percent last year.
Now basic government services have all but ground to a halt. That includes public medical care and also the food subsidy programs that Marta and her family had come to rely on – creating a nutrition emergency in the midst of the country’s broader economic crisis.
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