The situation is critical for the entire population, but the pandemic is the least of concerns for families. The priority is not the fear of contagion, but being able to eat. The average daily income of a Venezuelan is the equivalent of 0.55 euros. The conclusion is clear: everyone is poor today.
Inflation gallops to record highs and to get food, fuel or medicine people have to stand in endless queues. Thus children and young people become the most vulnerable segment of the population. A recent study reveals that the nutritional status (height/age ratio) of children in Venezuela is more similar to that of African countries such as Nigeria or Zambia than that of any other neighboring country.
Faced with this situation, the Salesians denounce the oppression suffered by the population and continue to stand alongside those most in need. The main help consists in the distribution of food, water and hygiene products. They do this especially among the children who every day participate in one of the seven programs that the “Red de Casas Don Bosco” has throughout the country. But they also help returning migrants, organize “solidarity pots”, community kitchens, in parishes and accompany indigenous communities in the Amazon.
“The coronavirus emergency has aggravated the humanitarian crisis that began in 2016 and from which there is no way out. At the moment the coronavirus is the least of our concerns, even if infections and deaths are on the rise, without the real figures being known,” the Salesian missionaries explain.
The "Red de Casas Don Bosco" Civil Association offers every day, in its seven centers, more than 700 breakfasts and meals to children in vulnerable situations, as well as hygiene kits. “If it were not for this support they'd have nothing to eat, and we have more and more cases of malnutrition,” says Leonardo Rodriguez, Director of these Salesian social works.
Thanks to the support of the Salesian Mission Office of Madrid “Misiones Salesianas”, the program offers children a personalized basket for breakfast and lunch, while social distance and hygiene measures are being maintained at all times.
But the uncertainty of this month also affects the return to school. In many places there are no teachers because they have not been paid and in most schools it is impossible to implement sanitation measures due to structural deficiencies. In consideration of this situation, the "Red de Casas Don Bosco" has implemented an emergency education mode in its seven programs, with the enrollment of 4,184 children and adolescents.
Amid difficulties, the Salesians, as Don Bosco would have done, continue to help and instill hope in the population.