NutraIngredients-LATAM recently revealed that CITGO’s Simón Bolívar Foundation had awarded seven programs in the Latin American region with grants. These programs center their nutritional provision and support on those people in and from Venezuela, who are affected by the complex humanitarian crisis in the country.
We spoke to one of those award winners, Cuatro Por Venezuela, about the work they are doing to support the nutrition and health care needs of people living in Venezuela and Venezuelan refugees uprooted by the crisis, and how the program grant helps their continued efforts.
1. Can you tell us about yourself and Cuatro Por Venezuela?
Cuatro Por Venezuela is a non-profit organization that was created in 2016. Since its outset, it has delivered more than 70 tons of medicine, food and supplies to Venezuelans in need. All this work is possible thanks to our donors and to our trusted network of local NGOs, foundations, hospitals, rural community centers, senior facilities, orphanages and schools.
I am an MD and graduated in Venezuela after living in the United States since 1987. I am a mother of three children, each of whom has been raised with love for the two countries we are lucky to belong to: the US and Venezuela. I consider myself a humanitarian who always looks to help others, the ones in need.
2. What inspired you to set up Cuatro Por Venezuela?
This initiative was born in October 2016 following the efforts of four Venezuelan women living in the US, who were compelled to take action to help their country. The Foundation was formally founded by myself, Gloria Mattiuzzi, Maria Elena Texeira and Carolina Febres on 14th December 2016.
It is dedicated to creating programs and partnerships to deliver relief to any corner of the national territory of Venezuela. We couldn’t stand “con los brazos cruzados” — with our arms crossed — while seeing so many people in need. We set out to do something big and we did it!
3. What are people's top questions and needs when they come to Cuatro Por Venezuela?
Generally, people ask for medicines for chronic and acute diseases. Schools ask for food and nutritional supplies to ensure their cafeterias remain open and feed their students. For many of those children, their school meal is the only food they have all day. The requests vary because there is so much need in Venezuela.
4. What are the key challenges that pregnant women face in Venezuela?
Teenage pregnancy and malnutrition are the top two challenges in Venezuela. These are so prevalent because family planning and sexual education programs have been dramatically impacted since the economic crisis. Programs like these are severely lacking in Venezuela.
The United Nations Population Fund 2017 revealed that around one in four babies in Venezuela is born to a teenage mother. Further, a significant number of teenage pregnancies are characterized by the presence of malnutrition.
5. Why did you choose to focus on providing folic acids and iron supplements?
Iron and folic acid are necessary during pregnancy to guarantee the appropriate neurological development of the baby. The lack of these elements is associated with low weight at birth, prematurity and defects in the neurological system.
6. You're currently helping approximately 200 women in Venezuela by providing folic acid and iron supplements, how did they find about you?
We have a trusted network of local NGOs and foundations throughout the country. We will be working with two of these organizations that focus their work on educating and caring for pregnant women.
7. Where would these women have visited as an alternative? Is there sufficient and alternative help at the moment?
While there are other initiatives that advocate and help women in Venezuela, the need greatly outweighs the current resources.
8. What difference does this supplement provision make to these mothers' babies?
We try to provide them with the appropriate levels of iron and folic acid in order to prevent prematurity and low weight at birth.
9. What do you hope to achieve moving into 2020?
When Cuatro Por Venezuela started, we originally wanted to focus on education. Because we launched at the height of the economic and humanitarian crisis, we focused our immediate efforts in medicine, food and nutritional supplies.
We dearly hope that circumstances in Venezuela improve so that we can shift our efforts to education. We believe that the best way to lift up the country is through education.