Venezuelan Children Are Starving To Death — Here’s How You Can Help

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By Virginia Chamlee

The Venezuelan economy has been collapsing since 2014, with the once oil-rich nation seeing inflation spiking, government cash reserves dwindling, and political unrest leading to violence and arrests. Along with the economic collapse, the country has also been impacted by a severe humanitarian crisis that's led to food and medicine shortages. Now, it's become more obvious than ever that the country needs help, with Venezuelan children now dying of hunger at alarming rates, according to doctors in the area. Fortunately, there are ways to help Venezuelans suffering from hunger.

The New York Times published an interactive story over the weekend, detailing the breadth of the problem. Although malnutrition deaths have been largely unreported by the Venezuelan government, a months-long investigation by the Times found that the country's doctors are "seeing the kind of extreme malnutrition often found in refugee camps."

Venezuela has the largest discovered oil reserves in the world, but the country's economy hasn't been immune from collapse. The socialist regimes of Hugo Chavez and, after him, Nicolas Maduro, have been blamed for many of Venezuela's economic problems. The government overspent on welfare programs, and it fixed prices, forcing the country to become dependent on selling its oil abroad. The economic plunge gave way to a political and humanitarian crisis. Malnutrition began to come to a head just as the economic crisis intensified in 2015 and 2016, at which point the number of cases of severe malnutrition among Venezuelan children spiked.

Many warn that the economy in Venezuela is on the brink of no return, but there are ways to help the country's hunger problem. And many of the organizations that focus on hunger fight the issue in a number of global regions — so supporting them helps people around the world. Here's how to help.

Help Feed Children Impacted By The Food Scarcity Crisis

The food scarcity issue is affecting people of all ages in Venezuela. In fact, a 2016 survey conducted by Venezuelan universities found that nine out of 10 households in the country were “food insecure." But it appears to be affecting infants at an overwhelming rate. The number of children under the age of 1 who died increased 30 percent in 2015, according to a Ministry of Health report which was later removed by the government.

Sharing for Life aims to create global awareness about child malnutrition and how it impacts human development. The organization also collects food and financial donations to send to "hospitals, homes, homes and schools in Venezuela that do not have the possibility of feeding the children who are there." Another organization, Sunrisas, works to support underprivileged children around the world and has a campaign specifically geared toward Venezuela.

Support Organizations That Give Medical Support To Venezuelans

As Human Rights Watch notes, Venezuela’s crisis led to medicine shortages, as the finance ministry hasn't released the funds needed to buy more painkillers for the public healthcare system. Organizations like the Venezuelan Society of Palliative Medicine collect medicine in order to help those in the country without it, specifically to aid the treatment of patients with chronic diseases.

Other organizations, like Cuatro por Venezuela, work to provide specific needs in the areas of health, nutrition and education. Along with partners and volunteers, the organization then delivers resources to beneficiaries in the country. Currently, the organization partners with more than 74 hospitals and institutions in more than 14 states in the country. Its food program accepts donations to create year-round funding to help provide food to senior citizens and children facing hunger.

Urge U.S. Legislators To Focus On Venezuela's Hunger Crisis

Many who critical of the Venezuelan government are taking matters into their own hands, calling U.S. representatives to express concern regarding the crisis. Some U.S. lawmakers have already attempted to take action. A bi-partisan Senate bill, for instance, directs the Department of State "to work through nongovernmental organizations to provide public health commodities, basic food commodities, and related technical assistance to Venezuela."

That bill — sponsored by Democratic Sen. Benjamin Cardin and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio — was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations in May. In early December, the House passed a similar bill, with its sponsors urging Senate counterparts to act quickly and send their bill to the president's desk.

Find the contact information for your representative or senator here.

Support NGOs

A slew of non-governmental charitable organizations are aimed at not only providing food and medicine to families in the region, but also to educating the general public about just how severe the problems are. Organizations including the Humanitarian Aid for Venezuela, the Foundation for Hearts and Hands in Action, and the Human Rights Foundation are all seeking donations to continue their work in the area.

Consider Helping Organizations That Aim To Improve Living Standards

The most deprived children in the country are suffering from poor living conditions, in addition to health problems and hunger. The Chamos organization seeks to improve life for those most affected by providing financial support for families to acquire medical, educational, or other essential equipment through reputable NGOs in Venezuela.

Purchase Medical Supplies For Venezuelans

Medical supplies have been difficult to get into Venezuela in recent months, with the government cracking down on U.S. shipments in the wake of political unrest. Some groups have been bypassing those crack-downs, though.

A clinic called Accion Solidaria, based in Caracas, has been providing medicine to Venezuelans daily, posting updates about what they have available online. The group is seeking donations of leftover drugs, including antiretroviral drugs, antibiotics, antifungals, antihypertensive, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory medications.

Fund Organizations That Document The Hunger Problem

According to the Times, the Venezuelan government has enforced a near-total blackout of health statistics. The full extent of the country's hunger crisis would be largely unknown if it weren't for the Ministry of Health, which documents mortality rates for children (and found startling numbers in Venezuela in 2015). After the ministry posted its findings — that the mortality rate for children under 4 weeks old had increased a hundredfold — the Health Minister was fired, and the reports were removed.

The financial support of organizations who are documenting the problem is, therefore, critical, to understanding exactly how much help Venezuela needs. Roman Catholic aid group Caritas, for instance, weighs young children in working class Venezuelan communities, and has commissioned studies that found 54 percent of them suffer from some form of malnutrition.

Some Venezuelans are taking to the streets to pick through garbage for their meals. Infants and young children, however, don't even have that option. Food and financial assistance is sorely needed, and you can help.