Venezuelans 'selling their hair' to feed their families, says CBC reporter at border

The economic situation in Venezuela is pushing civilians to the brink of desperation. As advocates warn that the exodus could rival the migrant crisis coming out of Syria, Venezuelans around the world fear for their loved ones back home.

Selling your hair for $20 can feed your family for a month

Sandra Negrin, the mother of four-year-old Luna Francesca Moreno, told CBC News she made the decision to leave Venezuela to save her daughters from starving. (Michelle Gagnon/CBC News)
Listen19:34

Venezuelans fleeing starvation are selling their hair in an attempt to survive, according to a CBC reporter who is covering the exodus at the country's border.

At a chaotic marketplace in neighbouring Colombia, "there are people shouting that they will buy anything you've got," the CBC's Adrienne Arsenault said.

"We watched a man basically say: 'I buy hair, I buy hair,'" she told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.  

"Women with long hair will be approached. Their hair will be all cut off. You'll probably get the equivalent of about $20 — that is enough to feed your family for maybe a month."

Some people take that money and cross back into Venezuela, she said, while others carry on, joining the 2.3 million Venezuelans who have fled food shortages and runaway inflation in their oil-rich home nation since 2014.

Rebecca Sarfatti, a board member of the Canada-Venezuela Democracy Forum, has been fundraising to send medicine and supplies "because hospitals don't have anything."

"People are dying because they don't have alcohol, they don't have cotton. That's why people are dying," she said.

"It's overwhelming."

Venezuelan-Canada Rebecca Sarfatti sends money to her family in Caracas but her 72-year-old mother says food isn't available to buy. She says her mother has been searching for eggs for two weeks. 0:40
 
'The world in general needs to realize that we have a dictator in Venezuela that is doing everything to protect himself and sacrificing all of the Venezuelan people to do it,' the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley told Reuters. (Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press)

Human rights groups are urging a coordinated response, but Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the UN, called Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro a "dictator" last month. In May, Canada downgraded diplomatic ties with the country, calling Maduro's government "illegitimate and anti-democratic."

Listen to the full discussion near the top of this page.


Produced by Idella Sturino, Samira Mohyeddin and Jessica Linzey.

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