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Venezuela Promises Pregnant Women a Handout That’s Worth Almost Nothing

Zika Virus in VenezuelaZika Virus in Venezuela
A mother and her child wait in the emergency room of a hospital at Petare slum east of Caracas, Venezuela on Feb. 4, 2016. Carlos Becerra—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Venezuela’s President Nicholas Maduro announced during an annual address that pregnant women will soon be awarded a small cash subsidy. The monthly payment of 700,000 bolivars is, at the current exchange rate, worth about $3.83, according to CNN.

The subsidy would have been worth $17 as recently as last November; hyperinflation amid a collapsing economy is likely to make the subsidy worth even less in the weeks to come.

After the women give birth, their stipend will increase to 1 million bolivars, or $5.48, Maduro said. He did not provide a reason for starting the new payment scheme, which he reportedly expects will apply to 151,000 expecting mothers.

The once-prosperous nation continues further into a recession started by the drop in global oil prices in 2014. A domestic survey of Venezuela’s living conditions found that over 73% of the population lost an average of 19 pounds due to food shortages in 2015 and 2016.

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Pregnant women must have of one of Venezuela’s new national ID cards to redeem the stipend, CNN reports. But the cards are seen as a token of support for Maduro, and many citizens refuse to carry them. It is unclear if pregnant women without the card will be eligible for the subsidy.