Friday, November 2, 2018

Desperate Mothers

Photo by Caritas

Leidy Cordova (above pic), a 37-year-old Venezuelan mother, poses for a portrait with her four children. The entire family went the entire day without eating. Inside their home, a broken refrigerator was empty except for half a bag of corn flour and a bottle of vinegar. 

“My kids tell me they’re hungry”, said Cordova as her family looked on. “And I all can say to them is to grin and bear it”.

In Venezuela, things are getting from bad to worse. 

The country is facing one of the world's worst humanitarian emergencies, according to the United Nations.

Extreme poverty has jumped 40%, deaths related to child malnutrition are on the rise, and millions have fled the country in the past two years. 

Many inside and outside Venezuela blame the policies of socialist President Nicolas Maduro. But his supporters point to the opposition, and also "imperialist forces" outside the country – including the US, which has imposed sanctions. 

The vulnerable members of Venezuelan society have been among those hit the hardest – mothers and children. 

Poverty and hunger rates are soaring as Venezuela’s economic crisis leaves store shelves empty of food, medicine, diapers and baby formula. Some parents can no longer bear it. They are doing the unthinkable. 

Giving up their children. 

In the crisis-hit country, many mothers are being forced to make difficult choices about their children. It’s really heartbreaking! 

“People can’t find food”, Magdelis Salazar, a social worker said. “They can’t feed their children. They are giving them up not because they don’t love them but because they do”.

These are desperate times. 

According to The Washington Post, there are no official statistics on how many children were abandoned or sent to orphanages and care homes by their parents for economic reasons. 

But interviews with officials at Fundana (a non-profit orphanage and child crisis center established since 1991) and nine other private and public organizations that manage children in crisis suggest that the cases number in the hundreds – or more – nationwide. 

Venezuela descended into a deep recession in 2014, battered by a drop in global oil prices and years of economic mismanagement. The economic crunch worsened in the past year. 

And a study by the Catholic charity Caritas in poverty-stricken areas found the percentage of children under five lacking adequate nutrition had jumped to 71 percent in December from 54 percent seven months earlier. 

Venezuela’s child welfare ministry did not even respond to requests for comment on the phenomenon of children being forsaken or put in orphanages because of the crisis. 

The socialist government provides free boxes of food to poor families once a month, although there have been delays as food costs have soared. 

For years, Venezuela had a network of public institutions for children out on a limb – traditionally way stations for those needing temporary or long-term protection. But child-welfare workers say the institutions are collapsing, with some at risk of closing because of a shortage of funds and others critically lacking in resources. With the public system overwhelmed, the burden is increasingly falling on private facilities run by non-profit organizations and charities. 

Leonardo Rodríguez, who manages a network of 10 orphanages and care centers across the country, said that in the past, children placed with his centers were almost always from homes where they had suffered physical or mental abuse. 

But last year, the institutions fielded dozens of calls – as many as two per week – from desperate women seeking to give up their children so that they would be fed. Demand is so high that some of his facilities now have waiting lists. 

When governments fail, the people suffer!

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