Live

Watch CBSN Live

Scenes from Venezuela: People suffer and starve as political and economic crisis drags on

Political unrest in Venezuela sparks humanitarian crisis

Citizens picking food out of discarded garbage bags. A mother mourning the death of her infant, lost to malnutrition and malaria. A young boy uses paper currency to weave a makeshift purse, simply because inflation has rendered cash practically worthless.

These are some of the scenes witnessed by CBS News' Adriana Diaz and her team as they walked through the streets of Caracas, Venezuela. As Juan Guaidó and Nicolás Maduro continue their tug of war for the presidency, the people continue to suffer in a crippled economy. They bear the brunt of a deadly socioeconomic spiral that the paralyzed government can't control.

On Sunday, thousands of Venezuelans held a vigil for five people killed in protests that were sparked after Guaidó called for a military uprising last Tuesday. But the high-level military defections Guaidó was counting on never materialized, and Diaz described the protests that followed over the weekend as "lackluster."

Traveling through Caracas, Diaz documented scenes of people digging through bags of half-eaten garage for their next meal, their only choice considering the exorbitant cost of food. With inflation at more than 1 million percent, money is basically worthless. One boy showed CBS News how he folds and weaves paper bills to build a makeshift purse, explaining that money is more valuable to weave than to spend.

Venezuelan boy makes purse out of valueless money

Perhaps most affecting are the scenes of families wracked by poverty and death. The child mortality rate in Venezuela has increased 140 percent, compared to 2008 levels. Diaz spoke with Nairobi Sortaga, whose infant son died in February from malnutrition and meningitis, weighing only 13 pounds at 1-year-old. Inside her impoverished home, an empty cupboard contained a small bag of lentils to feed Sortaga and her two daughters.

"It's not my fault," she said, wiping away tears.

Before the country's crisis, Sortaga worked as a cleaner in Venezuela's Supreme Court building. Now she can't find a job in the collapsed economy. The government provides subsidized food boxes irregularly.

She said they're surviving thanks to free meals provided by Alimenta La Solidaridad. The 3-year-old organization provides a meal a day to 10,000 children in community kitchens across Caracas.

Instead of handouts, they provide ingredients and pots to community members, who then run the kitchens on their own. We saw dozens of children with bowls in hand lining up outside one kitchen that was based in a woman's own home.

caracas-venezuela-adriana-diaz-team.png
CBS News associate producer Luis Giraldo and producer Jack Renaud filming children lining up for meals in Caracas. CBS News

Two children who receive the meals are Nairovis Ortega's daughters. Ortega now works in one of the community kitchens. After losing her son in the humanitarian crisis, she wants to fight child malnutrition however she can — even one meal at a time.