Argentina in an acute poverty crisis
The pandemic has exposed social inequalities worldwide; at the same time, the distress is deeper. In the last three months, the population of slums and shanty towns in the cities of Argentina has grown.
Unofficial data estimate a 60% increase in the number of people living in these conditions. Human settlements grow because people have nowhere to live, so with cardboard, some leftover wood, and nylon bags, they "build" a shelter among weeds and debris. There are no toilets with sewers or running water. People arrive because they have nowhere else to go.
The biggest problem is the lack of food, flooding due to rain and cold, and the lack of electricity. To feed themselves, neighbors organize a common pot where everyone contributes something, and they receive a bowl of food cooked with firewood. The people make a line to fill their food bowl; otherwise, they cannot eat since there is no place to cook in the cardboard and nylon sheds.
The situation is critical because people are looking for work but are unable to find it. Before the pandemic, people had informal jobs (day laborers, bricklayers, domestic workers). Now they have lost it. They made a living with their daily income. When they lost their jobs, they needed to move to a human settlement. There is no way to live outside the human settlement because there is not enough for rent."
The cities with industries and upward social mobility no longer exist in the poor sectors; in the human settlements today, they live in the worst conditions, with hundreds of children, men, and women in cardboard, nylon, wood, and sheet metal shacks.
The pandemic and the economic and productive structural backwardness of Argentina have brought child poverty to more than 60%, that is to say, more than 60% of children and adolescents live in poverty, go hungry, do not go to school, and their parents are unemployed.
The authorities describe a worrying panorama: "Argentina has 44% of poverty, 40% of everyday work and 1.5 million young people who neither study nor work.
What is it like to be a poor child in Argentina today? To be a poor child is to be a child without opportunities, poorly fed, and who will reproduce the previous conditions of life; this is intergenerational poverty.
The worst problem exacerbated by the pandemic is the increase in educational inequality and the lack of food. Many children had no contact with the school during the past year. School closures deepened the educational gap and increased school dropout rates.
The situation of family violence and gender violence is critical throughout the country, especially where there is overcrowding. The pandemic isolation worsened the gender violence.
In this critical and sad context, the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina-Uruguay implements in several communities food support services (soup kitchen) to assist the neighborhood and the community (through Lutheran Disaster Response funds)
Soup kitchen in the Sarmiento neighborhood, San Miguel, Buenos Aires province
Photos José Gabriel Hernández/ La Voz