The Effort to Fill the Pot

Many red flags and rags appear hanging on rustic doors, broken windows, distillate walls, and adobe walls of poverty-stricken houses. In Cartagena, these flags shaken slightly by the winter breeze are symbols of hunger.

Forced quarantine, necessary in many cases, is condemning the poorest to hunger. For them, confinement is atrocious. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) predicts that because of COVID-19, hunger can attack 100 million more people.

But also red flags are the harbinger of a crumbling middle class. According to the DANE, the Columbian middle class a heterogeneous population of about 15 million people. The group consists of employees or workers in the formal sector and owners of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MISME), who have been affected the loss of their jobs or their businesses.

“This is a shocking epidemic just for the poor,» says Mísaysn Caparrós. «We need help to eat.» The flags have spread in several impoverished regions in Latin America since the COVID-19 health crisis broke out. Its colors vary throughout the area: red, white, or black, all representing death.

The fight between hunger, pot, and spoon

Amid the uncertainty, solidarity occasionally stands out. For instance, in Villa Gloria, the semi-urban district of Cartagena, dozens of families gather around a community pot that joined forces so that no one in their community goes to bed without having a bite.

In the face of the health and social crisis that we live through on account of the proposed confinement, the efforts advanced by the mayors to deliver food aid fall short. At the time of writing, 95,271 meals have been distributed, between markets and supermarket bonds, for the vulnerable population, which is not close enough to fulfill demand.

Gloria Sánchez, president of the Community Action Board of Villa Gloria, noted that resources and contributions had been made in kind made by organizations, friends, and the same community is that markets have been delivered and community pots created to help vulnerable families. Every day is a challenge to obtain the inputs, but generous and kind people thanks to God always appear to bless us,» she,» said.

Juan Simancas, a resident of the neighborhood, says that they have organized with the group of buildings, communal leaders areas of the community, and some corporations and foundations to keep up to date a group chat with which they follow up on contributions that mitigate the hunger of families.

Courtesy of:  Caracol Radio.

Near Villa Gloria is La Boquilla, a fishing district whose residents have a slight improvement in their living conditions. Here people, mostly poor, respond to the call of social managers in WhatsApp chats: «Tomorrow, we will bring some food and provisions, thanks for the information.»

This mutual aid, scattered among several urban neighborhoods, is being replicated in different sectors of the city. These reinforce the solidarity fabric they have inherited from their grandparents.»

Leaders went from shop to store to ask the merchants for help to do an activity called ‘Sanc’chatón,’ where they gave soups and rice to about 100 families.

Likewise, a group of young people seeks to encourage the collaboration and integration of citizens in times of pandemic by abiding by the rules of prevention and social estrangement. It aims to organize 300 community food drives in the three locations thanks to the collection of food between neighbors and members of these communities.

Amid hunger, a gesture of solidarity that conveys hop, is powerful. While Cartagena is a tourist city and the second most important port in the country, it is also the city with the highest level of poverty among the seven main capital cities of Columbia, according to the Cartagena Como Vamos Quality of Life Report for the year 2018.

We maintain a declining trend in the poverty levels of the inhabitants after the increase in 2016, and this pandemic undoubtedly certainly makes the numbers worse. More than 26% of the population live in poverty, and 35 thousand people, equivalent to 3%, live in extreme poverty. Of this figure, 35,229 people do not earn a minimum monthly income of 117,605 pesos, which is a stressful amount when needs increase in quarantine.

This will be evident in a few months when the indicators of what citizens perceive are updated. In the city, 27% of neighborhoods are interiorized as inferior; the percentage is 43% on the islands of Barú and Tierrabomba. These figures correspond to a sample of respondents by Cartagena How We Go for the preparation of the Citizen Perception 2019 report.

During the study period, 25% of respondents said that at least one household member had to eat less than three meals a day because there was not enough food. Today the situation has worsened. At this point, the red flags will then evoke the thoughts of Umberto Eco: «the symbol is a sign whose meaning overflows to the signifier.»

In the hands of civil society, private enterprise, and individual actors articulated with the administration; there is the well-being of hundreds of families; it depends on the protection of those who need us most right now. Together we will overcome the crisis and give humanity back the love it needs to trust in the future.

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