At Comuna 13, tourists have deserted the streets. The famous escalators that made the reputation of the neighborhood are stopped. And the colorful walls of street art look very dull without their Covid-19 visitors.
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Street vendors, servants, tour guides, restaurateurs, most of the inhabitants of barrio live on informal jobs. At first, without saying anything, they followed the recommendations of the Colombian authorities hammered by helicopters or by police vehicles: ” stay at your house “. But after a month of confinement, families have run out of food and anger rises. Without resources since March 20, they are waiting for food and financial aid that does not come.
Broken promises from local authorities
“Two weeks ago, a few families got together and started hanging rags, fabric or even red flags on their houses to say” here there is nothing left to eat, help us ! ”. And the movement has spread throughout the city and even in other Colombian cities “says James Zuluaga, coordinator of the Comuna 13 Human Rights Committee.
With these red rags, Colombians express their anger and their distress. They are calling on the authorities to ask for food aid or to call the neighbors for more solidarity. “We have been waiting for weeks and demanding the food aid promised by the town hall of Medellin and the Antioquia region. But still nothing! For many, it is a meal of rice once a day, the children are hungry “, says Maria del Socorro Mosquera, head of the Association of Independent Women, which takes care of single mothers and children of Comuna 13.
Associations to the rescue
Neighborhood associations work hand in hand to identify families and organize private food aid. They canvass individuals, businesses and authorities. For the past three weeks, two young French people have answered the call. In 2016, they launched Café Cliché, a café-restaurant in Medellin. Despite the closure of their establishment and the financial difficulties it causes, they cook hundreds of meals twice a week for families in Comuna 13. “We couldn’t do nothing during this confinement when there are so many people in need. And this is an opportunity to discover French gastronomy! “, adds Sylvain Lefèbvre, owner of Café Cliché.
Since April 10, the town hall distributes food kits and financial aid of one hundred thousand pesos (24 €) to 120,000 poor families. The first phase of an aid plan that will reach a total of 600,000 people. As in all major Colombian cities, it also launched a fundraising campaign on April 12, which raised more than three million euros.