By Kent Ferris
I want to share with you an emergency appeal we have received from Catholic Relief Services regarding the Venezuela humanitarian crisis.
Catholic Relief Services (CRS) carries out the commitment of the bishops of the United States to assist the poor and vulnerable overseas. As such, I have discussed this crisis with our own bishop, Thomas Zinkula, who has given his approval for sharing the appeal with you now.
Venezuela’s political crisis appears to be reaching a boiling point. On Jan. 23, Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president in an effort by the opposition to unseat President Nicolás Maduro. Guaidó’s declaration received support from neighboring countries and the United States.
Since 2015, Venezuela has been reeling in an economic and social crisis. A drastic fall in the price of oil, the country’s main export, led to a progressive decline in the capacity to produce locally, which resulted in food shortages, hyperinflation, the collapse of the health system and social unrest. Food shortages have had a devastating impact. Venezuelans have lost an average of 24 pounds per person since 2017.
Of 15,000 children under age 5 being monitored by Caritas Venezuela during the last year, 76 percent showed signs of a nutritional deficit and another 13 percent are living with acute malnutrition.
In this context of scarcity, millions of Venezuelans have felt no choice but to flee elsewhere to provide for their families. As of January 2019, at least 3.6 million Venezuelans have migrated to other Latin American countries, mainly Colombia and Peru. Among the more than 1 million Venezuelan migrants in Colombia alone, 55 percent have children. The number of people leaving Venezuela is projected to double in the coming year, according to the Brookings Institution.
CRS and their Catholic partners in a number of countries, including colleagues with Caritas agencies in Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Peru and Ecuador, are helping tens of thousands of individuals who have stayed in Venezuela as well as the millions who have been compelled to leave the country. Services have included health and nutrition assistance, legal and psychological support and shelter and livelihood support.
CRS is asking for our help. To support the relief effort in Venezuela:
Give online: https:/www.crs.org/
Give by phone: 1-877-HELP-CRS.
Give by check: Catholic Relief Services P.O. Box 17526 Baltimore, Md., 21298-8180
Additionally, we are aware that in the past, parishes have responded to emergency appeals by undertaking a parish-wide collection. For parishes that are willing to do so, collected funds can sent to:
Finance Office-Diocese of Davenport, 780 W. Central Park Ave., Davenport, Iowa 52804-1901. On the memo, note: CRS-Venezuela-Crisis
Please pray for our brothers and sisters from Venezuela. Thank you for your consideration of this request.
(Kent Ferris is the Social Action & Catholic Charities Director for the Diocese of Davenport)