'This is our charism,' says Mother Emilia Rivero
Mother Emilia Rivero runs the Providence Nursing Home Foundation in Caracas, Venezuela. Even in ordinary times, caring for lonely, poor, and often forgotten elderly Venezuelans is not easy. And in Venezuela, where political unrest has heightened shortages of food, medicine, and water, these are not ordinary times.
“This is our charism, our work, to serve them, care for them, make sure that they have their food, are dressed, have clean clothes, have water, which has been such a problem,” the sister told Sky News on March 2.
The elderly suffer the crisis in Venezuela acutely, as in some cases their relatives have fled the country, and in other cases simply find themselves financially destitute.
Some experts have estimated that the majority of Venezuelans over 60 depend on charity to survive, with the Catholic Church at the forefront.
The Catholic charities supporting elderly Venezuelans are themselves struggling for resources, especially since electrical blackouts began March 7 in many parts of the country.
Mother Rivero told journalists that many of the appliances in her nursing home’s kitchen, for example, no longer work, and the home has had problems getting water, especially since the blackout began.
Sky News reported that the nursing home where Mother Rivero serves can ordinarily care for 100 residents, but, due to the crisis, can accommodate now only 40.
Speaking to Aporrea TV in December 2018, the nun also clarified rumours about the deaths of the elderly at the nursing home. “Some people out there have said that the elderly here are starving to death. Thanks to benefactors, they can get their three meals a day, and we also welcome visitors who encourage them and bring them snacks.
“We have here at the nursing home 40 people, we also take in for lunch another 15 people, and some other people come for supper,” she added.
“We don’t have aid from any governmental institution” nor “do we receive money because they withdrew all aid,” the nun lamented, explaining that the nursing home she runs is sustained by donations.
According to CNN en Español, Venezuela has suffered blackouts for several hours for each week. While the Maduro government says the blackouts are caused by a cyber attack from the United States, experts have blamed an overtaxed and outdated electrical grid.
For his part, opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who also claims the presidency of Venezuela, said that 16 states in the country continue to be without electric power while six have partial service.
Guaidó indicated the private sector has lost at least $400 million because the power outages affecting Venezuela.
According to some media, the lack of electricity has also left t24 dead in the country’s healthcare facilities.
The blackouts have also resulted in a failed clean water supply in some parts of the country.
A version of this article was originally published by CNA’s sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.