Latin America

Venezuelan families scavenge for food to survive hunger

Survey by top university says the average citizen has lost 9kg in the past year in what was once South America's richest country.

Caracas, Venezuela - As the economic and political crisis deepens in Venezuela, so do the levels of hunger.

A survey by a top university found the average Venezuelan has lost nine kilogrammes in the past year.

Many families are now forced to scavenge for food in what was once South America's richest country.

At a soup kitchen run by the Catholic Church in Caracas, there are rarely any leftovers. It only serves 100 children every day, so the kitchen, which runs on donations, is forced to turn people away.

"Every day, more children come. Our crisis is such that, as they say, shame has been forgotten," Judith Arcia, a cook at the soup kitchen told Al Jazeera.

"People would rather beg for a plate of food for their children, than watch them go hungry."

READ MORE: Venezuela crisis: All the latest updates

Arcia said many of the children are given a special formula after arriving, when they are found to be severely malnourished.

The parents - who are not entitled to a meal - are not so lucky.

"Sometimes my wife and I do without food so at least the children can eat twice a day," a parent told Al Jazeera.

Acute malnutrition

Venezuela's prolonged and acute economic crisis - characterised by food shortages and hyperinflation - has seen infant mortality rise to almost 35 percent and maternal mortality to 65 percent in just the last year. Anemia is rampant.

The oil-rich country is now leading Latin America in what is called acute malnutrition, defined by experts as a rapid decline of nutrition that puts a child's life at risk.

The Catholic Church and opposition leaders have called for the government to open a humanitarian corridor. But Constituent Assembly President Delsy Rodriguez flatly rejects such a plan.

But the Venezuelan state seems unable to halt a crisis that is driving tens of thousands of families across neighbouring borders.

And while at home a lucky few continue to receive help, the number of deaths from malnutrition is also growing.

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