Day 6

What Venezuela's diaper shortage says about the country's economic crisis

Venezuela's store shelves are bare, drugs are scarce and personal hygiene products - like diapers - are hard to come by. The black market for them is thriving and people like economist Pedro Rosas are stashing them in their houses. He tells Day 6 guest host Marcia Young what diapers say about the country's economy.
Volunteers carry boxes with medical supplies and diapers during a donation campaign in Caracas, on June 15, 2016. Credit: FEDERICO PARRA / Stringer (FEDERICO PARRA / Stringer )
Listen8:41
Newborn babies often bring with them joy, exhilaration, sleepless nights, and a whole lot of dirty diapers.

But in the midst of a crippling economic crisis, diapers can become a hot commodity that spurs a thriving black market.
That's what's happening in Venezuela, where the country's only major export, oil, has lost half its value in the past two years.

The health care system is collapsing. Crime rates are soaring. Venezuelans are afraid to leave their homes at night.

They're lining up at supermarkets for hours to get their hands on basic goods and foods. It's a desperate situation caused, in part, by a string of failed government policies. 

A woman adds to a pile of diapers in her Caracas home. For many people, hoarding is the answer the the growing shortage of food and other goods. (FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images)


But milk and bread are not the only things in short supply.

Last month, Kimberly-Clark announced they will not make diapers in Venezuela. The corporation produced almost half of the country's diapers. Now, diapers are difficult to come by on store shelves

The shortage is yet another sign of just how dire Venezuela's economic crisis has become.

And it's a big problem for Pedro Rosas. He's an economist based in Caracas and his wife just had a baby about a month ago. Now, buying much-needed diapers is a complicated process. 

​Rosas can only buy 2 packs at a time, twice a week — once on a weekday, and once on the weekend. And he has to prove that his demand for them is legitimate.

"You also need to show that you need the diapers," Rosas says. "That you're not buying them just to re-sell them. So the pregnant woman has to be there, or whoever is buying the diapers has to show a recent birth certificate, also the ultrasound and medical report."



​Rosas says that if diapers run out entirely, he and his wife may have to turn, reluctantly, to cloth diapers:

"That's Plan B," says Rosas. "But that is very difficult because we don't get water in our apartment every day to wash clothes."

"We only get water 3 or 4 times a week. And when it comes it's yellowish, it's dirty. And we don't want to wash our baby's clothes in that water."

​Rosas says the dire situation in his country has him and everyone he speaks to very worried. "The question we all ask: 'Until when? Until when this will go on?'"

​Rosas and his wife are thinking of moving away from Venezuela altogether. 
 
"Things keep getting worse, and the government just keeps implementing more controls. That's the only way they know how to react."