Hungry children at Venezuelan school

Padre Jose Maria Velaz school pupils in Venezuela draw their most recent meals. (Top) 'Today and yesterday, I ate bread for breakfast; yesterday, I had sardine with yucca, butter and water for lunch and had nothing for dinner.' (Centre) 'Ate a corn c
Padre Jose Maria Velaz school pupils in Venezuela draw their most recent meals. 'Today and yesterday, I ate bread for breakfast; yesterday, I had sardine with yucca, butter and water for lunch and had nothing for dinner.' PHOTO: REUTERS
Padre Jose Maria Velaz school pupils in Venezuela draw their most recent meals. (Top) 'Today and yesterday, I ate bread for breakfast; yesterday, I had sardine with yucca, butter and water for lunch and had nothing for dinner.' (Centre) 'Ate a corn c
Padre Jose Maria Velaz school pupils in Venezuela draw their most recent meals. 'Ate a corn cake and soda.' PHOTO: REUTERS
Padre Jose Maria Velaz school pupils in Venezuela draw their most recent meals. (Top) 'Today and yesterday, I ate bread for breakfast; yesterday, I had sardine with yucca, butter and water for lunch and had nothing for dinner.' (Centre) 'Ate a corn c
Padre Jose Maria Velaz school pupils in Venezuela draw their most recent meals. 'Today, I ate nothing for breakfast and had pasta with Mortadella (sausage) for lunch. I'm hungry.'PHOTO: REUTERS

CARACAS • When children at a Catholic-run school in a poor neighbourhood of Venezuela's capital Caracas began fainting from hunger, their teachers asked them to draw or describe their most recent meals and what they expected to eat next.

The responses were shocking.

Some of the 478 kindergarteners and primary school pupils had gone without breakfast and were skipping other meals. Others expected to eat only bread, yucca or "arepa", a form of cornmeal flatbread that is a local staple.

The drawings and texts at the Padre Jose Maria Velaz school in western Caracas are another symptom of the oil-rich South American nation's deep economic crisis and its effects on nutrition and eating habits.

Depicting their latest meals, some children at the school drew just mangoes and plantains. One said he had eaten rice and beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Another said he had no breakfast. "We are waiting for food," he said. "I'm hungry."

School director Maria Hidalgo said one in four children there was eating inadequately, and some teachers had also fainted from hunger.

"It is dramatic, what we are going through," she said. "What kind of Venezuela are we going to have in 10 years?"

Due to the faltering socialist economy and the plunge in global oil prices, Venezuela has been in recession since early 2014. It suffers from the world's highest inflation and is experiencing a shortage of basic goods, from milk to medicine.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2016, with the headline 'Hungry children at Venezuelan school'. Print Edition | Subscribe