Children’s Drawings Show What Hunger Looks Like in Venezuela
Arepas are a staple food item among Venezuelan families. The flat cornmeal cakes, often stuffed with grilled meat, beans, or eggs, are found at nearly every meal. But for many children in Venezuela subsisting solely on arepas, what was once just part of their cultural identity is now a symbol of growing food shortages in the struggling country.
Primary school students in the capital city of Caracas are coming to school hungry, Reuters reports. After several students fainted from hunger, teachers at the Padre Jose Maria Velaz school in western Caracas asked them to draw what they’d eaten in recent meals and what they expected to eat soon. The simple drawings show days of eating arepas for every meal, dinners consisting of a mango, and breakfasts of bread and water. Several children left blank spaces, indicating that they had skipped meals.
Meat and vegetables are largely lacking from the kids’ meals. Diets made up entirely of fats and starches have left children malnourished. Health officials note that diets without protein and dairy could negatively affect brain development. School director Maria Hidalgo told Reuters that a quarter of the 478 students are not getting enough to eat or are eating unbalanced meals.
Children aren’t the only ones struggling. Nearly 90 percent of Venezuelans said they do not have enough money to buy food because of the country’s economic conditions, a recent survey conducted by Simón Bolívar University found.
Some families are taking advantage of Venezuela’s mango season to help support their diets. Adults and children alike have taken to climbing the trees or throwing rocks to knock down the sweet fruits.
The South American nation has suffered from a financial collapse over the past two years. Critics blame Venezuela’s crisis on the socialist government’s economic plans and a drop in the price of oil, which the country relied on as its primary source of income. Venezuela’s political leaders say the food shortage is attributable to an “economic war” being waged by opposing politicians and business leaders, who are hoarding food to take advantage of those who are hungry.
Basic supplies such as food and medical equipment are scarce, and citizens have resorted to rioting and looting businesses. School attendance rates have dropped as both teachers and students spend hours waiting in lines to purchase food and other supplies. The students who show up have difficulty ignoring their hunger.
The child who drew this picture had pasta for lunch but skipped breakfast. “I’m hungry,” he wrote.