Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 6, 2019 / 03:49 pm (CNA).- Catholic bishops in Argentina are calling on the government to declare a food and nutrition emergency in response to heightened inflation and rising poverty rates.
“Faced with a severe increase in homelessness, poverty, unemployment and the indiscriminate increase in the price of the basic food groups, we find ourselves in an emergency food and nutrition situation which essentially affects the most vulnerable, especially children,” said the Bishop’s Commission for Pastoral Social Ministry.
The commission asked the government to “provide the necessary measures to declare a food and nutrition emergency throughout our country” and take swift action to remedy the situation.
The bishops asked the government to create early childhood baskets, to be distributed free or at a subsidized cost, offering diapers, medications, vitamins and dietary essentials including milk, meat, fish, eggs, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
They also asked the government to increase “the budget allocated for soup kitchens and schools, community and family gardens, and family and social farming ventures, guaranteeing equity and the quality of the federal food and nutrition assistance services.”
“Pope Francis reminds us that fraternity is the main foundation of solidarity and that effective policies are also needed to promote the principle of fraternity, ensuring people—equal in their dignity and in their fundamental rights—access to goods so that everyone has the opportunity to fully develop themselves as persons,” they said.
In addition, the bishops called on volunteers to help out where they can.
Bishop Carlos Tissera, president of the local Caritas chapter, stressed that food aid from the government “is not enough to alleviate the deficiencies of this time.”
Faced with the current crisis, he said, “Caritas is making their…resources available to the community so more aid can arrive quickly, through their soup kitchens, food stands, neighborhood centers and volunteer teams from all over the country.”
Tissera, who is also bishop of Quilmes, noted that Caritas “is day by day alongside the most vulnerable communities creating hope and encouraging everyone to recognize their dignity, fostering the culture of work, solidarity and the common good.”
Argentinian President Mauricio Macri, who took office in 2015, introduced austerity measures including cuts to years-worth of government subsidies, leading to sharply increasing gas and electrical bills.
Following a drop in investor confidence, the Argentinian peso has dropped in value by more than 20% against the dollar in the last two months, while inflation has climbed above 50%.
Data from the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina’s Social Debt Observatory estimates that some 35% of the population is living in poverty.
Archbishop Jorge Lozano of San Juan de Cuyo lamented in a recent statement that “having a job today doesn’t ensure getting above the poverty line.”
“Having a job today doesn’t ensure getting above the poverty line. There are a lot of people that don’t have quality of life in terms of their food, their education. They have a job… but that job is not enough to be able to cover basic necessities.”
Lozano said that there are neighborhoods in the province where “the number of children coming to the soup kitchens has doubled.”
“Food deliveries have been bolstered and in the Church there are several initiatives that Caritas is promoting, but we’re overtaxed,” he said.
The archbishop voiced optimism that the national government would respond to the bishops’ call for a food and nutrition emergency to be declared in the country.
“I hope that the necessary means to assure quality food for the entire population will soon be organized,” he said.
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