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June 23, 2017

With the economy in freefall, Venezuela faces humanitarian crisis

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  • With the combination of a failing economy and rapidly inflating food prices, many Venezuelans are currently starving to death. One recent study found that in the past year, 75 percent of Venezuelans lost an average of 19 pounds. The proportion of children who suffer from severe malnutrition increased by four percent in just four months.
  • Given Venezuela’s massive oil reserves, its economy is almost entirely reliant on oil exports and produces very little itself. As a result, the country depends on food imports. However, due to a combination of falling oil revenues, corruption and a poor economy, the government has little money to import goods.
  • In addition to the widespread malnutrition, hospitals have very little medication to treat the complications that it causes. Hospitals in Venezuela are equipped with less than five percent of the medications that they require. Many foreign drug companies have severed ties with Venezuela due to its $6 billion in unpaid debts.
  • The Venezuelan government has said that accepting humanitarian relief would expose Venezuela to foreign intervention, an effective ban on aid.
  • Codevida, a coalition promoting health rights, has addressed the medication shortage by compiling a makeshift pharmacy that accepts donations of medications and distributes them to Venezuelans. Francisco Valencia, who runs the pharmacy, said that the Venezuelan government needs to accept that the country is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis and that government and international action must be taken.

Key Terms

malnutrition: a lack of nutrition caused by not having enough to eat or not eating the right things

inflation: a rise in the general price level and fall in the purchasing power of money


  1. Essential question: What is the humanitarian crisis currently underway in Venezuela?
  2. What aspects of Venezuela’s economy made it particularly vulnerable to a shortage of food and medication?
  3. Should the government of Venezuela accept international aid, how might other countries be able to help?
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