People are gathering firewood to cook in the country with the largest oil reserves

In Trujillo, citizens look for firewood in mountains and hills since there is no other fuel available for cooking. The state-owned cooking gas monopoly has only furnished them with cooking gas twice this year. The use of firewood to cook has resulted in mild, and respiratory diseases in some people.

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Residents of Valera and Escuque climb mountains and hills to find firewood, due to the shortage of domestic gas for cooking. Photo by Maria Gabriela Danieri

By Maria Danieri.

Residents of the municipalities of Valera and Escuque, in Trujillo state, are forced to climb mountains and hills in search of firewood to cook, due to the lack of domestic gas in the region, a problem that has worsened during the quarantine by COVID-19.

Despite having the largest oil reserves on the planet, Venezuelans all over the country, have to resort to cooking with firewood increasingly, as the local oil industry has fallen into a state of profound disrepair.

Cooking with wild, untreated firewood also resulted in mild to respiratory ailments, a big concern during the present outbreak.

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According to the citizens consulted, they have received the supply of Communal Gas (the state-owned cooking gas monopoly) only twice so far this year, and with waiting periods of up to three months, but some have five months waiting for the second-order of the year.

Private companies do not escape this irregularity, which is why looking for wood in nearby forests has become the first alternative for many.

“It has been a while since it doesn’t come, we are cooking with firewood, others with electric stoves. The last time gas arrived from PDVSA was in March. Curaçao (a private company) hiked prices after Easter and has not returned either. We look for the firewood in the rocks, wherever it found,” said Alexander Valero, an inhabitant of Cerro Caja de Agua, in Valera.

Increase in diseases

Besides harming the quality of life of citizens during the lockdown, the situation has also brought about mild to severe respiratory diseases.

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“In my community, the bottles were paid (companies demand payment beforehand, sometimes months in advance) in April and May, and so far, they have not come to collect the empty ones. We are cooking on wood, on stoves. That causes us respiratory complications: flu, difficulty in breathing.” said Elizabeth González, who is gathering firewood in Cerro Ponemesa and is taking it to her residence in Sabana Libre, in the municipality of Escuque.

In El Pensil, another sector of Escuque, a citizen died recently from a lung condition, according to the neighbors’ version.

“She suffered from her lungs and, as she had no gas, she cooked with wood. She died because of that, from breathing the smoke from the stove. In El Pensil, they practically bring us the gas every three months,” said Karina Barrios.

At the University Hospital Dr. Pedro Emilio Carrillo, in Valera, they have recorded the increase in respiratory ailments, unrelated to COVID-19. However, they are blaming it on the arrival of the rainy season.

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