Malnutrition skyrockets at Caracas Children’s Hospital

When children, the most vulnerable of our society, are faced with an uncertain future, the consequences of Venezuela’s failed policies become clear. Not even clothing and diapers are the main concern: Food is.

The cases of severe malnutrition treated at J.M de los Ríos hospital has risen silently.  In the course of a year, Dr. Ingrid Soto, Chief of the Nutrition, Growth and Development Dept. witnessed a 267% increase in the number of children with skin tight to their bones.

She hears the same problems again and again from parents. Mothers cut back on what they eat to save the little food they have for the youngsters. Parents and kids eat same-sized portions. Dr. Soto notes that 60% of the severe malnutrition cases were kids who could be breastfed, but aren’t because the mothers are malnourished themselves.

Consequences? Dr. Soto says nutritional deficiencies won’t take their toll only on the children’s growth, but on their development. “These are children who might not finish school or get to university because malnutrition affects their cognitive development. These children are more prone to get sick and die. And it will only perpetuate poverty.”

This will haunt them forever.

To fight the scarcity, parents feed their children with bottles of spaghetti-water or rice shakes, fruit juice or diluted milk, food their stomachs can’t process yet. None of these options presents them with the amount of protein needed for their age.

Since the Caritas foundation began monitoring the country in late 2016, severe malnutrition has approached the international level of emergency. It’s a sight too common: Skinny children wrapped in diapers made of plastic bags. The mandatory question I dread asking is “What do you feed your baby?” and the answer is gut wrenching: Creamed rice, whole milk or “barley milk” obtained by letting the barley sit in water.

The revolution’s food sovereignty is really the ghost haunting every household: hunger.

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