• Short Summary

    Poverty and destitution are still widespread in Venezuela - Latin America's richest republic. Government officials?

  • Description

    Poverty and destitution are still widespread in Venezuela - Latin America's richest republic. Government officials estimate that "marginalidad" - living on the edge of society - afflicts 40 percent of the country's 12 million inhabitants. But with new oil wealth, the government is taking steps to overcome the problem.

    SYNOPSIS: The symptoms of "marginalidad" - the official term for poverty - are the slum areas that ring every city, particularly the capital of Caracas.

    These slum areas spawn a range of social problems from drug addiction , child crime alcoholism and malnutrition to a lack of sewerage, running water and electricity.

    According to official estimates one million people, or 41 percent of the population of Caracas, live in shanty huts and slums around the capital.

    In addition, Venezuela has an estimated two million youths and children that have been abandoned by their parents.

    The fourth Latin American Nutrition Congress was held in Caracas last week, opening on Wednesday (24 November).

    The United Nations' International Children's Emergency Fund are working in conjunction with the congress to provide aid and education for the under privileged' children of Latin America.

    The Venezuela government has also launched a child nutrition programme to coincide with the congress.

    The programme is being conducted through the schools of Caracas.

    Children are being taught the value of certain foods.

    They are being encouraged to eat natural products and are given leaflets and information brochures to pass on to their parents.

    The programme is also taking a practical note.

    Around 17,000 children are being supplied with "arepas" - traditional Venezuelan scones made from soya beans - daily.

    The children are also given milk with their "arepas". Under government sponsored schemes, local women are being given money and food to look after up to five children each.

    It is hoped this will end vagabondage and allow many more mothers to go out to work.

    Social workers say Caracas is haunted by "children who sleep where nightfall catches them, and eat what they can beg, or steal, children who don't know what a family is much less a home and regular meals".

    Much has been achieved - much is still to be achieved.

    Government officials believe the success of campaigns to stamp out poverty and malnutrition will depend largely on efforts to make agriculture a major industry, ending the continual tides of impoverished peasants who, for decades, have poured into the cities to swell the ranks of the slum dwellers.

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    Media URN:
    Reuters - Including Visnews
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    Available on request
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