In another indicator of Venezuela’s deep financial and humanitarian crisis, women in the socialist country are opting for sterilization in record numbers.
Traditional contraceptives like condoms or birth control pills have virtually vanished from store shelves, pushing them toward the hard-to-reverse surgery.
According to a study conducted by PLAFAM, a non-governmental organization focused on Planned Parenthood and sexual health issues, today nearly 23 percent more women are being sterilized in Venezuela compared to four years ago.
PLAFAM director Enrique Abache told The Washington Post that doctors at their clinic are performing an average of 30 sterilizations per week.
“It wasn’t a hard decision to make,” said a recently sterilized mother of two, as quoted by the Post. “It was the most feasible option … because of the country’s financial situation,” said the 31-year-old woman, who asked to remain anonymous.
She said she decided to undergo the $1,500 procedure after the birth of her second child in November.
The government offers a number of free or reduced-rate operations under a program called “Sterilization Days.” But the program has become so popular that there is a months-long waiting list – program director Deliana Torres told Reuters that nearly 500 women are currently booked.
"Before, the conditions for this program were that the women be low-income and have at least four kids. Now we have women with one or two kids who want to be tied up," she said.
The extent of the country's economic collapse can be measured in the length of the food lines snaking through every neighborhood. According to the polling firm Datanalisis, the average Venezuelan shopper spends 35 hours waiting to buy food each month.
"Having a child now means making him suffer," said Milagros Martinez, 28, to a Reuters reporter, as she waited for her sterilization at a Caracas municipal health center.
She said she decided on the operation after having an unplanned second child because she could not find birth control pills.
"I'm a little scared about being sterilized but I prefer that to having more children," she said.
With reporting by The Associated Press and Reuters.