By Lorena Bornacelly.
In the last few days, groups of people have been seen walking towards the Colombian border in the Venezuelan Andean state, among them adults with children in their arms, as a softening of quarantine in the neighboring country has allowed that the exodus of Venezuelans people to continue.
Some 5.5 million Venezuelans fled the country since 2013, according to United Nations figures published this week, or roughly 15% of the entire population of the country, estimated at some 32 million people before the exodus began. And analysts and aid organizations have reported a recent uptick in the Venezuelan exodus.
Most of the more recent ones are just walking for the border, setting out from different states in Venezuela, with only the clothes on their backs. No money or food for themselves or their families. El Pitazo observed children walking along the road from San Cristobal to Capacho Nuevo, an area near the border, complaining of pain and cramps from the long walk.
In the municipality of Capacho Nuevo, people from the community provide attention to the so-called walkers, giving them food and allowing them to spend the night at meager accommodations if need be. The children are allowed to go to a house to sleep on mattresses and in better circumstances.
A long walk for a better life
In a sports arena re-purposed by neighbors as a rest area, arrives Carla Blanco, a 30-year-old woman from Cabudare, Lara State, with her two-month-old son. They have walked, so to speak, for four days. She could only buy three canisters of baby formula for the trip, and she had to ration it, something she already did at home earlier: she has no eating enough to breastfeed the baby.
The little boy’s chapped lips alerted her that something was wrong. In an outpatient clinic, a doctor told her that the child was dehydrated. The mother is alarmed and confused, but she says she cannot stop her trip, not now, not so close to Colombia and out of Venezuela.
“I don’t even remember where I put the piece of paper where they wrote down some directions. I’m giving water to alleviate dehydration, but I can’t stop. This walk is for a better life and better nutrition for him,” she said.
According to Martha Delgado, an inhabitant of the area busy helping the walkers, children are arriving dehydrated, with pain in their legs and back. From her home, she hears testimonies of families with infants who claim to go up to a whole day without eating.
“We receive thin and dehydrated babies with scaly skin, chapped lips, skin spots from the sun. You try to help, but it is not much you can do. We try to help, but it is not enough. Here in Capacho, in the maternity ward, there is a girl who comes and explains to the mothers how to breastfeed the children, but not all of them want to or understand,” explained Delgado.
On the road to the border, you can see children lying on the sidewalks resting, in the bush, or on the pavement. Others are picked up by their parents to help them rest and speed up the pace. Others cry and walk.
On the outskirts of San Cristobal, neighbors prepare the traditional atol (oatmeal with milk) and give it to the children they see traveling with their parents towards the border.
Additional reporting by Carlos Camacho in Caracas.