Parents grappling with Venezuela’s food shortages surrender their children to orphanages

World Today

Parents grappling with Venezuela’s food shortages surrender their children to orphanages

As Venezuela’s economic crisis deepens, poverty and hunger are growing worse.  The problems have forced some parents to do what may seem unthinkable — hand their children over to orphanages. 

CGTN’s Stephen Gibbs reports from Caracas.

It’s breakfast time at the Bambi House orphanage in Caracas, and there are plenty of hungry mouths to feed.

The charity, which has been around for 22 years, has never been so busy. The reason for that illustrates a sad statistic.

An increasing number of Venezuelan parents cannot afford to feed their children, so they are taking them to orphanages.

That, say those who work here, is both troubling, and new.

“We didn’t used to have parents bringing their kids directly to us,” said Erika Spillmann, the founder of Bambi House. “Parents leave their children here because they can’t afford to give them what they need — food or diapers or anything. So they bring them to us for help.”

Leaving a child for others to look after is a momentous choice.

“No parent wants to give up a child,” said Bambi House worker Dayanis Sanchez. “For many, it is the most difficult decision they have ever made. But when they see their children recovering from the problems they had when they arrived, then the parents feel better.”

The goal at Bambi House is for the children, whenever possible, to return to their families when the financial situation improves.

“We do everything we can to make sure the children receive what they need and deserve — love, attention, food, education and recreation,” said Sanchez. “But we can never replace the comfort, the love, that exists between a child and its parents.”

Those who arrive here, one of the best-funded orphanages in the country, are lucky. There are 60 beds, and it is completely full.  As soon as a bed becomes free, it is filled by another child.

Often it is the Venezuelan government, whose state orphanages are full, that sends children over.

We receive a lot of calls from the government asking if we have space, and we have to say ‘no’ all the time,” said Spillman. “Every day we say, ‘no.'”

The orphanage is staffed by a mixture of paid employees and volunteers, and supported mainly by donations, from Venezuelans here and abroad.

As the country goes through the deepest crisis in its history, there are shortages of many things. But what there is no shortage of, is people who want to help.