Crisis in Venezuela may obliterate normal childhood

TODAY VENEZUELA NEWS – Food shortages… Lines… Inflation… Loss of purchasing power… Black-market hawkers… Insecurity… Conflict… Confrontations.

This picture, which may seem a fictional and chaotic horror story, is currently defining the everyday life of Venezuelan citizens: they find themselves immersed in a nation-wide crisis that has greatly modified everyone’s habits, especially in the economic sector. Children are one of the most unfortunate victims of this situation.

Children are ‘suffering’ reality and this creates in them the same feelings it does in adults, but their interpretation of what they go through is different from ours, as we are more experienced and mature,” says Oscar Misle, director of the Community Learning Center (Cecodap, in Spanish).
Effectively, the changes in the supply patterns for food and medicines, the inability to maintain the habits that ensure quality of life, plus the constant insecurity and uncertainty regarding the future are having a harmful impact on the lives of Venezuelans.

Anger, frustration, confusion and fear are manifested by adults, children and teenagers alike, with minors taking the brunt of the crisis. “Indeed, children feel anger, indignation and fear. During our work sessions with them they tell us lines make them angry, they don’t like making lines and find having to make them horrible. When asked why, they answer it’s because ‘people always push us’ and ‘there are always people fighting’. Lines are terrible for children as there are no bathrooms, no place to drink water, no place to cover themselves from the sun where they spend hours, and to boot, they have to stay there and not move, because if they do so they’ll lose their place in the line,” stated Gloria Perdomo, coordinator of the Venezuelan Violence Observatory (OVV) and director of the ‘Light and Life’ Foundation.

Children doing the [adult] math

The social changes recorded are not innocuous: they are actively altering the way people eat and how families organize themselves in their work and study routines. “Everything is directly linked to or transformed by this crisis’ extent,” Perdomo highlighted.
“Sometimes they’ll tell me how they spend 12 hours of a single day standing up in a line and, in the end, there’s nothing for them to buy.” This is the experience of some of the children who consult with psycho-pedagogical expert, Sandra Sánchez.

Sánchez states that children are showing more and more hyperactivity and aggressive behavior, as that is what they see in their homes everyday: their parents’ feeling of impotence. “They will talk as if they are grown people, and will even say they were ‘black-market hawking’ but found nothing.”

In fact, specialists say that children are ‘doing the math’ just like adults to see whether they can afford to buy food.

Just one pumpkin serving a day

The reports of ‘fieldwork’ and other research carried out by both the OVV and the Light and Life Foundation include answers from adults, children and teenagers from the municipalities of Libertador (Antímano), Sucre (Petare) and El Hatillo, all located in the Metropolitan Area of Caracas. The consensus is that the greatest and most serious impact of the economic crisis is the impossibility of providing children with food and proper nutrition.

There are families literally eating at the minimum level of their possibilities. There are homes where a dish of pumpkin soup is a day’s single meal. There are whole communities where meat, be it chicken, beef or pork, has long disappeared from the plates,” stated the OVV’s coordinator.
The repercussions are evident at first glance. “Children are losing weight and feel weak constantly. The teachers themselves have told us that, on average, 4 or 5 children a week have to be sent home due to headaches or dizziness. They have no idea what to do about it, as they themselves have difficulties taking their own food to work,” stated Gloria Perdomo.

Psycho-pedagogical expert Sánchez, on her part, confirmed that there is ‘a chaotic reality’ for teachers in schools.

“There are children missing school when they are requested to bring a certain material for a classroom task because they cannot afford it. There are some who used to collaborate with food for their school parties who now do not go at all because they cannot bring anything. Unfortunately, some schools have stopped holding those get-together parties, which can push children even more towards social friction,” Sánchez deplores.

Cecodap’s director underscored that this situation is emotionally affecting children, and that if they do not manage to express those feelings in a healthy way they could turn to other forms of violence, such as school violence, in addition to its repercussions on their physical health.

Schools also offer opportunities to help

Educational centers are not unable to do something regarding this matter. “It is important to create spaces and opportunities to talk about these issues in schools without falling into political pandering, keeping a focus on citizen education,” recommended Misle.

He also mentioned that some schools have started solidarity programs where some parents make food contributions for their children to share during lunch or snack pauses. “It’s about social commitment and sensitivity to one another. It’s not only about being worried over the general situation, but also about those who are living it in a condition different to my own,” he explained.