By Anthony Faiola | Washington Post
CARACAS, Venezuela – “Would you like to see the little ones?” asked Magdelis Salazar, a social worker, beckoning me toward a crowded playground.
We were at Venezuela’s largest orphanage, just after lunch. The yard was an obstacle course of abandoned children. A little chunk of a boy, on the cusp of 3, sat on a play scooter. He was called El Gordo – the fat one. But when he was left here a few months ago, he was skin and bones.
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He zoomed past a 3-year-old in a pink shirt with tiny flowers. “She doesn’t talk much,” one of the attendants said, tousling the girl’s curly hair. At least, not anymore. In September, her mother left her at a subway station with a bag of clothes and a note begging someone to feed the child.
Poverty and hunger rates are soaring as Venezuela’s economic crisis leaves store shelves empty of food, medicine, diapers and baby formula. Some parents can no longer bear it. They are doing the unthinkable.
Giving up their children.
“People can’t find food,” Salazar told me. “They can’t feed their children. They are giving them up not because they don’t love them but because they do.”
Ahead of my recent reporting trip to Venezuela, I’d heard that families were abandoning or surrendering children. Yet it was a challenge to actually meet the tiniest victims of this broken nation. My requests to enter orphanages run by the socialist government had gone unanswered. One child-protection official – warning of devastating conditions, including a lack of diapers – confided that such a visit would be “impossible.” Some privately run child crisis centers worried that granting access to a journalist could damage their delicate relations with the government.
My Venezuelan colleague Rachelle Krygier introduced me to Fundana – an imposing cement complex perched high on a hill in southeastern Caracas. Her family had founded the nonprofit orphanage and child crisis center in 1991, and her mother remains the head of its board. Rachelle remembered volunteering there a decade ago, when she was a student and the children were almost exclusively cases of abuse or neglect.
There are no official statistics on how many children are abandoned or sent to orphanages and care homes by their parents for economic …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Health