Covid-19 is making the situation in this impoverished country more complicated, with shortages of supplies, clothing and food. In this situation, Vincentians, themselves affected by poverty, are trying to help the most vulnerable.
With emergency funding arriving from the International SSVP, Venezuelan members are providing personal health, hygiene and cleaning products to all the Zone Councils and Conferences, as well as food and medicines for many needy people, including some of the members themselves, who, due to their meagre income, can no longer purchase what they need for their families and for their own health.
The situation in Venezuela remains critical, and is now made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic. The minimum daily wage is 1.50 $ and it may fall below this, depending on the rate of exchange. Most pensioners live on this minimum income, along with many of our members.
These people face a daily dilemma: What can I do? How can I feed my family and make ends meet? Food has not yet become scarce, but its high price means it is out of reach for the majority of people. Medicines for chronic ailments: diabetes, blood pressure, thyroid problems, etc., can be supplied, but the price means that they are beyond the means of most people. Many patients are dying for lack of treatment every day, and coronavirus is now added to this. Health services were not prepared for this pandemic, and many doctors have already died because of the lack of personal protection equipment.
Venezuela has countless problems. All the services are in chaos: water does not flow regularly, nor does gas, and many families are cooking with wood. There are electricity cuts every day, some areas go for 12 hours a day without lights. Telephone and internet communications are terrible, and now, to complete the circle of disasters, there are problems with petrol supplies. While this landscape is already calamitous, we now have to imagine what the pandemic is doing to a population so sorely afflicted.
The political situation divides the country, and a large majority of the population is being dragged into poverty. People who have savings in dollars, or those who can receive money from family living abroad, are managing to survive.
Vincentians themselves in Conferences are affected by this situation. Everything is paralysed by the pandemic, and during lockdown, many people lost their jobs, young students are faced with an uncertain future, and do not know what to do. The members were wondering how to deal with all this, without being able to attend meetings, or do their Vincentian work, and also without resources to share with those most in need.
The National Council has made huge efforts to stay in constant touch with all the Zone Councils and Conferences around the country, but one of the greatest problems in continuing to provide help is that it does not have a dollar bank account. Many members do have families abroad who would willingly provide resources to support Conferences in Venezuela, but they cannot transfer the money. Venezuelan members are twinned with conferences in Weston Miami, who have sent clothes and food. But this has stopped because of the sanctions imposed on the Venezuelan government, so they are seeking alternative ways of providing help and relief in such critical times.