Picking Through Trash and Giving Their Children Away; A Day in the Life of a Starving Venezuelan

Reuters/ Ivan Alvarado

Reuters/ Ivan Alvarado

Venezuela has been going through a devastating economic crisis for years now, but it has recently gotten so bad that hungry citizens all over the country are rummaging through the trash to feed their families.

The numbers are sad and shocking. A study completed by Dolar Today, which is an opposition website that publishes the black market exchange rate of the Venezuelan bolivar, found out more than 2.4 million Venezuelans are picking through garbage and eating rotten food in order to survive.

Alongside the report, Dolar Today released a video that showed groups of people herding behind grocery stores waiting for the moment they could pounce on the items that were deemed too inedible for sale. Men, women, and even children are on the video eating half rotten tomatoes, soggy lettuce, expired meat, and brown fruit.

“Before you could get food in stores,” explains one woman interviewed in the video, “but now everything is a line… You spend four hours on a line and get nothing, so we have to come here and see if we can find at least a little something to eat… Without food, how are we going to survive?”

There has even been a black market established in which people go to the garbage dumps, find food, then sell the items for cheaper than market price. Meant mostly for those who are too prideful to dig in the garbage themselves, this black market business has turned out to be especially profitable.

Why did Dolar Today post this video? This website is crucial for many Venezuelans because it states the real black market bolivar exchange rate, compared to the one publicized by the socialist government. Because President Maduro releases skewed rates, many Venezuelans do not know the value of their own money. That is where Dolar Today comes in, and they have taken it upon themselves to put faces to the suffering people of Venezuela and publish them on an worldwide scale.

Sadly enough, the shortage of food has led to an even more heartbreaking problem. Parents are placing their children up for adoption and giving them to family members because they simply cannot afford to feed them.

Giving your child up for adoption is a common practice by parents, and in the United States 41% of all adopted children are adopted by their relatives. But the stakes in Venezuela are too high to risk raising a child in a country overcome with starvation, fear, and rapid inflation.

The average monthly salary in Venezuela is the equivalent of $50 USD, but many parents live on much less. Zulay Pulgar and her seven children live on her husband’s pension of a meager $6 a month.

Explaining why she asked her neighbor to care for her child, Pulgar says “It’s better that she has another family than go into prostitution, drugs or die of hunger,” Reuters reports.

Pulgar states that one chicken dinner for her family would cost over half of their monthly budget, so the family subsists on coffee, bread, and rice for their three meals.

While more than five million moms and 214,000 dads in the U.S. are stay at home parents, those in Venezuela aren’t so lucky. The Venezuelan government does not officially release statistics on the number of parents giving their children away every year, but social services in the country estimate that dozens of parents do so daily.

Children’s rights group Cecodap reports that two-thirds of children in Caracas are malnourished and are not eating enough for their body weight.