Table of Content
Overview of extreme poverty and hunger in Venezuela
What have been the causes of poverty and hunger in Venezuela?
What could be done in order to reduce poverty and hunger in Venezuela?
Nowadays, extreme poverty is a problem that affects more than 767 million people around the world; these people have to survive with less than $ 1.90 dollars a day (The World Bank, 2016). In turn, extreme poverty brings hunger and health issues because people living in poverty lack the necessary resources to buy food and eat healthily, as a result, their health deteriorates (Shedlin, et al., 2016). For this reason, in order to combat extreme poverty and hunger worldwide, the United Nation and its members adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2016-2030 in 2015. The SDGs is an international plan or agenda that has 17 goals, which are expected to be achieved by the year 2030. Those 17 goals are focused on 1) ending poverty, 2) ending hunger, 3) health and well-being, 4) quality education, 5) gender equality, 6) clean water and sanitation, 7) affordable and clean energy, 8) work and economic growth, 9) industry, innovation and infrastructure, 10) reducing inequalities, 11) sustainable cities and communities, 12) responsible consumption and production, 13) climate action, 14) life below water, 15) life on land, 16) peace and justice, 17) partnerships for the goals (UN General Assembly, 2015).
As we can see, the first two goals relate to the eradication of poverty and hunger worldwide in all its manifestations. However, it seems that these objectives are not being achieved at present. Concerning this, the World Bank (2016) states: “(…) the number of people living in extreme poverty globally remains unacceptably high. And given global growth forecasts, poverty reduction may not be fast enough to reach the target of ending extreme poverty by 2030” (para. 2). The words already quoted from the World Bank show that it may not be possible to achieve the goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger worldwide by 2030. And if so, millions of people in the world will continue experiencing poverty and hunger. To illustrate, Venezuela is one of the countries where many people are suffering from hunger and extreme poverty. This essay aims to describe how the first two goals of the SDGs agenda, such as ending poverty and ending hunger, are not succeeding in Venezuela. Therefore, this essay explains the situation in Venezuela with respect to poverty and hunger; it also demonstrates the reasons for this issue. Finally, the essay shows potential solutions to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger in Venezuela with the aim of achieving the targets of the SDGs agenda by 2030.
Overview of extreme poverty and hunger in Venezuela
Poverty is the lack or scarcity of basic resources needed by human beings, to enjoy a dignified life, in turn, to enjoy a decent life it is necessary to have access to a remunerative job, quality education, adequate food, housing, clean water, health and transportation. To the extent that a human being can meet these needs, their level of poverty could be measured. For example, White (2014) states that there are different concepts and grades of poverty such as absolute, relative, temporary and permanent poverty. Thus, these concepts of poverty may apply to the social-economic situation in Venezuela. According to El Universo (2018) more than half of Venezuelans live in extreme poverty and as a result, on average they lost 24 pounds during 2017. Likewise, Vinogradoff (2017) states that now Venezuela is the poorest country in America, surpassing even Haiti. Specifically, the number of households living in poverty in Venezuela increased by 82% in 2016. Poverty in Venezuela is clearly reflected in the following aspects: hunger, deficient health service, economic inflation, violence and exodus of Venezuelans.
An investigation conducted by Kohut and Herrera (2017) for the New York Times reveals that in 25 public hospitals in Venezuela, doctors said they had seen record numbers of children with severe malnutrition, hundreds of whom died due to lack of food in that country. Significantly, the research already mentioned reports that a baby of only 17 months died of hunger, while his parents had to bury with much pain the skeletal body of their beloved son. Likewise, a survey conducted by Venezuelan researchers says that hunger in that South American country is causing serious health problems in the Venezuelan population (Singer, 2018). For instance, 64.3% of the participants in the aforementioned survey stated that they lost eleven kilos in weight in 2017. Indeed, the most common foods that the majority of Venezuelan people can afford are casaba and rice (Singer, 2018). According to a report by El Tiempo (2017), Hundreds of Venezuelan families leave home every afternoon to walk the streets looking for scraps of food that have been thrown in the trash. Among the food leftovers, these people find in the rubbish, are traces of chicken skin, pasta, rice, bread and pieces of decomposed fruit. People dig through the trash to find the aforementioned foods; once they find some of this waste they eat it, also these people carry plastic bags to deposit part of the leftovers found to take home and feed their families with this (El Tiempo, 2017).
One of the reasons for hunger in Venezuela is due in large part to the shortage of food in the country (Bermudez, 2018). The supermarkets in Venezuela are practically empty. People who go to supermarkets to buy food discover that the shelves are empty and therefore cannot buy everything they need (Bermudez, 2018). Basic items of personal hygiene such as toothpaste, bath soap and toilet paper are also scarce in supermarkets. For this reason, Venezuelans who go to supermarkets with the desire to buy many products, have to settle for buying only one or two articles of first necessity (Bermudez, 2018). Likewise, people have to stay in long lines to buy some pieces of bread. Specifically, it is estimated that Venezuelans spend about 35 hours per week waiting in long lines to buy some bread (Elsalvador, 2016). In addition, due to the economic inflation of the country, these products are extremely expensive. It can be seen then that Venezuela’s government has not made the necessary effort to fulfil the agenda of the SDGs, especially in relation to the hunger problem that this country is experiencing (UN General Assembly, 2015).
The extreme poverty that Venezuela faces is also reflected in a poor health service. For example, according to Egui-Brito (2016) “in 63.64% of the hospitals with pediatric services, there is no milk formula for newborns. There is an 81% shortage of medical-surgical equipment and 75% of medication shortage” (para. 1). It is evident that hospitals in Venezuela lack medicines, medical supplies, resources, availability of beds, hospital services and nutrition. To put it another way, none of the aforementioned medical services is adequately implemented in Venezuela. Thus, the hospital crisis experienced by this country has no comparison. “Julio Castro, Internist Physician Infectologist and member of Physicians for Health, a group of Residents and Specialists who made a digital survey that showed figures in red for the third consecutive year” (Egui-Brito, 2016).
The inoperativeness of hospitals in Venezuela is also described by Egui-Brito, 2016. For example, doctors for Health measured the behaviour of 242 hospitals in 23 states of the country, which included 92 "heads of state" -the most important of each entity- all hospitals of the 38 most important cities in the country (Egui-Brito, 2016). In addition to military hospitals, the Institute of Social Assistance and Welfare of the Ministry of Education, Integral Diagnostic Centers and Barrio Adentro, as a representative sample of the country. Most of the services offered by hospitals are inoperative: there is a 95% severe failure or paralysis of the laboratories, 80% of Computerized Axial Tomography, in which a medical imaging technique for diagnosis is scanned (Egui-Brito, 2016). The same occurs in 37.3% of hospitals offering X-ray services, and 29.3% with echoes. In the case of resources that should be provided by hospitals, the outlook is even more alarming: there is a severe failure or inoperability in 87% of catheters or probes, 81% of insufficiency of medical-surgical equipment and 75% of medication shortages (Egui-Brito, 2016).