by Hannah Stafford, News Editor
Since entering into recession in December 2014, Venezuela continues to struggle economically. This continuing depression prompted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to seek aid from the United Nations on March 24. According to CNN, that evening Maduro announced his meeting with UN Assistant Director of the Development Program for Latin America Jessica Faieta to discuss relief from the multiple shortages in his country due to the “economic war and the fall in oil prices.”
According to a report released by the International Monetary Fund, inflation in Venezuela rose to 500 percent in 2016 and is expected to continue to rise to 1,660 percent by the end of 2017. This is the highest inflation in the world according to black-market exchange rate data that was collected by The Johns Hopkins-Cato Institute Troubled Currencies Project over the past year.
Two of the most pressing problems arising from the crisis have been a starvation and a shortage of medical supplies, with the latter being one of Maduro’s primary purposes in speaking with the UN, according to CNN.
“The United Nations has the most advanced and complete plans in the world to recover the pharmaceutical industry’s production capacity and direct it toward medicines for the people,” said Maduro.
In May 2016, the New York Times reported the country had chronically low amounts of antibiotics, there were newborns sleeping in cardboard boxes and no fully-functioning dialysis machines. In one particular hospital at the University of the Andes, it was reported that there was not enough water and soap even to clean the operating tables. Situations since then have only worsened. On March 25, CNN reported that according to the Pharmaceutical Federation of Venezuela, roughly 80 percent of the country lacks basic medical supplies.
“Some come [to the hospital] healthy, and they leave dead,” said Dr. Leandro Pérez of Luis Razetti Hospital.
The health crisis is furthered by widespread malnutrition and starvation. According to a report by Fox News in March 2017, citizens have resorted to the black market for sustenance, leading to sickness and even death from poorly-processed food. Since October 2016, nearly 30 people have died from poisonous yucca, a vegetable-like tuber with two forms. One form is safe while the other contains deadly hydrocyanic acid. While the latter is banned by the government, the two are nearly indistinguishable, particularly to desperate, starving people. CNN reported that the average Venezuelan now loses approximately 19 pounds per year due to a lack of food and 32.5 percent eat only one to two meals a day. There are even reports of citizens hunting and eating protected animals such as flamingos and anteaters.
“The pressure that Venezuelans face every day is tremendous because of all the uncertainty,” Sonia Schott, the former Washington D.C. correspondent for Venezuelan news network Globovisión, told Fox News. “Nobody knows what will happen the next day.”