Venezuela’s ongoing economic crisis is now forcing many families to take drastic measures, including ending those family relationships altogether. New reports indicate that more and more parents are electing to give up their children, sending them to live with neighbors, distant relatives, or even as wards of the state, in the hopes that they will find better care than what their parents can currently provide.
“The parents come in crying,” said Angeyeimar Gil, welfare director for the municipality of Sucre in Caracas, home to one of the city’s poorest slums. “It’s very dramatic to see parents’ pain when saying they can no longer look after their child. We’re seeing a lot of cases of malnutrition and children that come to hospital with scabies.”
Basic food supplies are still difficult to come by in many parts of the country, where inflation rates have risen by triple-digit figures over the past year and the average worker’s salary is equivalent to less than $50 a month.
Venezuela’s government, led by President Nicolas Maduro, recently began pulling the lowest-denomination bank notes from circulation and replacing them with larger currency figures in an effort to combat the 80% decline in the bolivar’s value in the past 12 months. That plan seems to have backfired, however, as the new bank notes were delayed, leaving citizens unable to either exchange their money or use it as payment for services.
The highly oil-dependent economy in Venezuela has suffered both from a steep decline in global oil prices in recent years as well as the questionable socialist policies implemented by Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. The government, however, blames the country’s troubles on political insurgents and foreign meddling, particularly from the U.S.
As the crisis deepens, food and resources have become increasingly scarce — not just at stores, but in hospitals, schools, and communities. Parents unable to feed or care for their children due to lack of resources or funds have been abandoning them at state agencies, hospitals, or, in one case last month, bags left in wealthy neighborhoods. In the first few years of life, a child will develop 700 new neural connections every month, which makes proper nourishment and stimulation essential for healthy development.
One Venezuelan mother, caring for a family of five on six dollars a month, explained her reasons for sending her six-year-old daughter to live with a neighbor in plain terms: “It’s better that she has another family than go into prostitution, drugs or die of hunger.”