Like many Venezuelan girls, 7-year-old Salma fled a country where a near-worthless currency, an inflation rate that could reach 1,000,000 percent before year’s end, and a poverty rate approaching 90 percent have pushed food, medicine, and other necessities out of reach. Before fleeing Venezuela for Colombia, she survived for months on a single daily meal of rice and, if lucky, plantains. Salma’s grandfather Jose, 56, left Venezuela ahead of the family to find work. He slept at gas stations and relied on handouts from strangers for five months.
Malnutrition rates have soared in Venezuela, and mothers, themselves unable to find enough to eat, often are unable to breastfeed their babies. Many of those babies, born healthy, die because their moms and dads can’t find — or can’t afford — formula. Mothers camp overnight outside supermarkets to have any chance of buying the few items available; others have turned to trash to avoid starvation.