VENEZUELA – “Prohibido botar bebés,” it says: “Dumping babies is forbidden.”

The graphic is straightforward but shocking.

That anyone would conceive the need for such a sign is heart-breaking.That it encapsulates a growing problem in Venezuela, a nation strung tautbetween political stalemate and economic collapse, is nothing short ofdevastating.

Venezuelan artist Eric Meiicano told the BBC he created the campaignafter a newborn was found in the trash near his Caracas apartment. “Somethingis becoming common which should never be considered normal,” he said.The BBC report also described a precipitous rise in infants abandoned in thestreets or left on the doorsteps of public buildings.

Venezuela’s financial crisis has spurred ahuge exodus of 4.5 million people who have fled the country. Left behind arenearly a million children. Many have been put in the care of a neighbour orrelative while desperate parents seek a way to send help; others have beenabandoned.

From 2015 to 2016 alone, infant mortalityrose 30%, while maternal mortality jumped 65%, according to Venezuela’s HealthMinistry. Within days of releasing those figures, the Health Minister wasfired. After that, no further epidemiological data have been published.

Venezuela has the highest rate of teenpregnancy in Latin America. One in four babies is born to a teenaged mother,according to the UN Population Fund. Thus, often, running from violence,children abandoning children.

SOURCE: LondonFree Press, by Robin Baranyai, Special to Postmedia News, 6 March 2020