Venezuela Crisis: Abel’s Hungry. You Can Help.

As a parent, there are so many things you imagine yourself doing. Waking up a dozen times a night to make sure the baby is still breathing. Dealing with massive diaper blow-outs. Stroller walks and play dates at the park.

Then there are the moments no one prepared you for, but you deal with anyway. Discovering a toddler with a black magic marker and new “artwork” all over the new couch. The 2:00 am dash to the hospital with a child whose fever won’t break. The tenth hour of listening to the Frozen soundtrack on repeat.

Yessica, a devoted mom of five in Venezuela, finds herself in situations she never imagined with her kids. She finds them fishing expired, half-eaten food from the drainage ditch that runs outside their home.

“I’ve had to yell at them, because I’ve seen them find containers in the dirty water. I’ve told them it will make them sick.  They tell me that they don’t care, because they’re hungry.”

The drainage ditch that runs outside their home is the source of many of the sicknesses that plague Yessica’s children. Photo by Ronal Labrador Gelvis

Life was hard enough for Yessica and her partner Ángel before COVID-19 arrived in Venezuela. Now, like so many others affected by the virus, they are finding that earning a living has become nearly impossible.

“I work selling used car parts,” Ángel says. “But with COVID-19, there are no people on the street, and I sell almost nothing. I try to bring [some food] to my house, but it’s barely enough for one meal,” Ángel tells us.

Spending time with this family at their home, it’s immediately obvious how hard things have become.

The fetid drainage ditch flowing past their house is choked with raw sewage and garbage. The smell wafts past the rusty sheet metal fence around their home, and into the room where they live, with beds propped up on rocks instead of legs, and a pit latrine outside.

The home where Yessica and Ángel live with their children.  Photo by Ronal Labrador Gelvis/PLC

When it rains, the contaminated waters overflow and flood their house. “It’s a horror movie! The water rises and everything gets wet—the clothes, the floor. Once we had to leave the house. I took my children and ran to take refuge in a neighbor’s house,” says Ángel, who worries for his children.

He worries for good reason—everyone is sick, from Valeria the oldest, down to Abel the youngest. Asthma, skin infections, and malnutrition all leave their mark on these kids.

This family eats once a day in good times, and have gone as much as three days without food when things are bad.

“We have become used to eating at 6 in the afternoon,” Yessica tells us. “I prepare 1 kilo of rice for everyone and stir it with pork intestines. My children hold out until night, but the youngest ones cry when they get up, because they want something.”

The effects are most obvious in little Abel, despite his parents’ best efforts. His belly is bloated due to the lack of protein. “Abel’s first words were ‘Mom, give me bread.’ I was shocked that this was the first thing he learned.”

“The children are aware of the need,” said Yessica.

Yessica with her beautiful children: Valeria (9), Ángel (8), Alfonso (6), Abraham (5) and Abel (1). Photo by Ronal Labrador Gelvis/PLC

Our friends in Venezuela come from a wide range of backgrounds. One thread that ties them all together is the terrible impact of Venezuela’s economic crisis, and the outsized impact of COVID-19 on their ability to survive.

We are visiting neighborhoods in Venezuela, bringing food to families who’ve become even more vulnerable to hunger since the pandemic began.

We plan to come back to Yessica and Ángel’s house with enough nutritious food to feed their family for at least a month. We plan on bringing this essential help to their neighbors too. And we need your help.

Give today, so these kids get to eat, so their parents get a little bit of breathing room, and so their community knows that they aren’t forgotten.