CARACAS, Apr 6 (.) – Carlos Segundo Blanco, an 81-year-old retiree and his wife Olga Rodríguez, 78, are diabetics but have not received their medications for more than a year, amid the economic crisis in Venezuela that crushed his pension of about three dollars a month, or the value of a single loaf.
Now in the midst of the national quarantine ordered on March 16 by President Nicolás Maduro to try to contain the expansion of the coronavirus, the couple must face greater difficulties to buy the few foods they consume and their day is long without access to services such as television. cable or a working internet.
“We have a sentence of euthanasia for older adults” in Venezuela, said Blanco, who lives on the fourth floor of a building in the Coche neighborhood, west of Caracas.
In Venezuela, with the population hit by hyperinflation for three years, six years of recession and frequent cuts in the supply of water and electricity, paying for masks, medicines and food for several days in quarantine is a heavy burden.
But that weight multiplies if the monthly income is 250,000 bolivars a month or the equivalent of about three dollars, which is what about 3 million retirees and pensioners receive as Blanco each month.
If in other parts of the world where COVID-19 has fatally hit the population of adults over 55, in Venezuela the situation is more than worrying due to the economic crisis.
The Maduro government has said that up to April 5, 159 cases of COVID-19 and 7 deaths have been reported in the country.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA) has said that of the total number of Venezuelan cases, some 22 are from people over 60 years of age.
Medical specialists have expressed their doubts about the veracity of the official data, indicating that there are no reasons why the virus behaves differently in Venezuela compared to other countries, where the contagion rate has been higher, hitting older adults hard. .
The elderly “from here have been dragging a progressive decline in their living conditions: malnutrition, inability to pay for their medicines, lack of access to health, migration of their children and family,” said Luis Francisco Cabezas, director of the non-governmental group Convite , who since 2006 works in human rights and has made studies on the conditions of older adults in the South American nation.
According to a study released in November by Convite and the also non-governmental HelpAge that consulted 903 Venezuelans over 55 in three of the country’s 23 states, 77% of them said they did not have access to enough food and one in ten He said he goes to bed hungry every night.
Although there are no official data, Convite estimates that at least 900,000 older adults were left alone in the country due to the exodus of at least 4.8 million Venezuelans who fled the crisis in recent years, according to United Nations data.
Blanco said that he and his wife Olga eat an arepa with black coffee every day and eat rice with lentils between 4 and 5 in the afternoon. He added that although they receive help from one of their 5 children, who is a teacher at a private school in Caracas, it is not enough to eat three times a day.
Others are even in worse circumstances like Andrea Guerrero, 80, who lives alone in a dingy and dirty pension where she pays 50,000 bolivars, six cents, for a small room in the La Cruz neighborhood, in Chacao, east of Caracas. .
“So, are we all going to die?” Asks Guerrero, when asked about the quarantine and while emptying 6 servings of donated food into a container, which is distributed free of charge once a week by the Chacao Mayor’s Office to 80 elderly people who they are alone in conditions of poverty or abandonment by their relatives.
When he doesn’t have the food prepared that city hall volunteers deliver – rice with chicken, soups, ground beef, roasted plantains – it is the neighbors who help, said Guerrero, who makes some money washing dishes in restaurants.
But in quarantine “this is ugly (…) we are doing nothing”.
Blanco and his wife spend the day watching television, without access to cable service because they cannot afford it. “It is difficult, I am very anxious (…) I take some sun in the window, I walk” inside the apartment (… but) I despair. “
(Report by Vivian Sequera, Edited by Juana Casas)