• Gustavo Driau

Colombia, red flags means hunger

The COVID-19 pandemic finally reached Latin America. More than half of the cases of COVID-19 around the world were detected in Latin America, according to WHO. The region has 700,000 new cases detected in only two weeks.

The increase in the number of infected people turns the regio in the new epicenter of the disease.

The situation is particularly critical in Brazil due to its large number of inhabitants and pandemic control decisions that coexist with political crises, errors, shortcomings, and priority for defending the economy. The management of the crisis has provoked many criticisms regarding its errors. And the suspicion the government is hiding hundreds of cases

In Colombia, Bogotá is the most affected city, as it happens in all the countries where the big cities are the most hit by infections and deaths. The pandemic has left the poorest without income. Millions of men and women in Colombia have their jobs and economic occupations frozen, and therefore have no income. Workers in informal employment cannot find a way to earn their wages, cannot buy food, and hunger lurks.

The lack of minimum money adds to multidimensional poverty in neighborhoods such as Soacha, where IELCO is present, where 60% of the population lack employment, infrastructure, education, health, and income, a district with poverty three times higher than the country average.

Government aid is insufficient, they are late, and they do not reach all those who need them. When there is no food, and they are hungry, families hang a red flag, which means "we don't have food, we need help."

"Bayetilla" (a kind of baize) is a red square cloth that used at homes in cleaning works. It is used to remove dust, remove dirt from certain surfaces, or dry wet objects. This traditional element for cleaning is also called "dulceabrigo."

In times of coronavirus, the red cloth is a desperate call for help, a cry for help, to be hung at the access doors and windows of the poorest houses in Colombia. It has also become a peaceful means of protests against injustice, in equality and poverty, and hunger.

The red cloth is a complaint, but it is also a trigger for solidarity between neighbors because it is the residents of the community who give the most immediate aid. Churches play an active role in urgent solidarity between neighbors in proximity.

The tension in the neighborhoods is increasing; the police presence has increased. Neighbors protest and police repress, red rags also denounce abuse and police repression.

By the end of 2019, millions of Colombians protested in the streets against the national government, hitting pots and pans in their hands. Pots and pans deformed by the hits became symbols of denunciation and demand for political, cultural, and economic improvements.

In poor neighborhoods, several community soup kitchens arise; neighbors come together to cook food in a community way.

The consequences of the pandemic will push millions of Latin Americans into poverty or misery; that is the great scenario that awaits the churches after the number of deaths stops growing.

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