(MissionNewswire) As people in Venezuela continue to suffer from the country’s economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic, Salesian missionaries remain living and working in the country. Missionaries are helping distribute food, water and hygiene products in the communities they serve to help those impacted by COVID-19. They have helped returning migrants, organized community kitchens, supported people in parishes and aided indigenous communities in the Amazon. They are also focused on the youth served in their programs.
The economic, political and social crisis in Venezuela has driven many people into extreme poverty. Inflation has galloped to record highs and to get food, fuel and medicine, people have to stand in endless lines. Children and youth are among the most vulnerable. A recent study revealed that the nutritional status of children in Venezuela is more similar to that of African countries, such as Nigeria or Zambia, than that of any other neighboring country. The average daily income of a Venezuelan is the equivalent of 0.55 euros. Nearly everyone in the country is poor today.
“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,” said a Salesian missionary in the country.
As school resumes, Salesian missionaries have focused their attention on youth who participate in one of the seven programs operated by Casa Don Bosco, located in Caracas. Every day, Salesian missionaries provide more than 700 breakfasts and lunches to children in vulnerable situations thanks to the support of the Salesian Missions office in Madrid, Spain. Salesians are also providing hygiene kits to help prevent spread of the virus.
“If it were not for this support, youth would have nothing to eat, and we have more and more cases of malnutrition,” said Leonardo Rodriguez, director of Casa Don Bosco.
Education in the country is challenged. In many places, there are no teachers because they have not been paid. In most schools, it is impossible to implement sanitation measures due to structural deficiencies. In response, Casa Don Bosco has implemented an emergency education initiative and enrolled 4,184 children and adolescents within its seven programs.
According to data from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), there are more than 4.5 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees in other countries. Colombia has hosted close to 1.3 million while Peru currently has more than 768,000. In Venezuela, products that at one time cost the equivalent of $1 in the United States now cost the equivalent of $10 million. Many Venezuelans’ monthly salaries cannot cover the cost of a single gallon of milk.
Venezuelan unemployment will likely hit the 50 percent mark in 2020. The state, however, has not released an official unemployment figure since 2016, when it noted a 7.3 percent unemployment rate.
For those who remain in the country and are in need, Salesian missionaries have continued their work providing education, workforce development, and social development services to poor youth and their families despite volatile conditions.
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Salesian Missions – Venezuela
UNHCR – Venezuela situation
Any goods, services or funds provided by Salesian Missions to programs located in this country were administered in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including sanctions administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control.