Friday, December 20, 2019

Let us not forget Venezuela

Venezuela's economic crisis is taking a crippling toll on the country's children, who face a growing risk of malnutrition as basic food is increasingly out of reach for many families. The public health system, short of medicine and other standard supplies, is unable to provide much succor, and aid groups struggle to bridge the gap. Maduro blames the crisis and food shortages on U.S. sanctions meant to force him from power. Although the United Nations and other agencies import some food and nutritional aid, it isn't enough for Venezuela's needs and the assistance doesn't always get where it is most required. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has raised just a third of the $222.7 million it sought for Venezuela for the second half of 2019, according to official U.N. data.

Between 2013 and 2018, according to the United Nations Children's Fund, or UNICEF, 13% of the country's children suffered from malnutrition. Caritas, in a recent study conducted in five Venezuelan states and the capital, Caracas, found that 16% of children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition and that nearly twice as many suffer from low growth rates for their age.

The lack of proper nutrition is stunting growth, decreasing cognitive development and causing physical and emotional trauma among hundreds of thousands of young Venezuelans. As a result, doctors and other health experts argue, Venezuela faces a generation of young people who will never meet their full physical or mental potential.

"A population suffering from malnutrition implies we are going to have adults with less physical and intellectual potential," said Raquel Mendoza, a nutritionist at Mapani, an aid group in Barquisimeto that helps poor families diagnose and treat malnourished children. "We're going to see a regression in the development of the country because human resources are diminished."

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