From Colombia: “Should I die of a virus or die of starvation?”

Medellín is a city of eternal spring, a city of joy; a city of entrepreneurs and people who are proud of their culture.

Die from hunger

It is a city with more than two and a half million inhabitants, thousands of dreams and millions of worries.

A city that has seen children grow up with longings and illusions, fantasies and desires for society to raise, train and provide for them.

From terror to freedom

The people of Medellín wanted to see beyond – beyond weapons, drugs, prostitution. Step by step, the city has become a space for innovation and entrepreneurship. 

It finally allowed its children to dream beyond their difficult reality and free them from tempting and seemingly invincible offers to achieve their ideals.

Die from hunger

It is a city that has decided to live differently, born again, with a new and fresh face. Gradually, it turned into a city of flowers and colors, races, and joy, where peace of heart is more important than money in your pocket.

This Medellín with carriel (typical men’s bag, op.p.) and sombrero (hat op.p.) is a place of beer and guarap a (typical refreshing drink, op.p.), a place where breakfast is served calentao (rice with egg) and meat) and arepa

Die from hunger
A typical Arepa, a dish made from cornmeal.

It is a place of strong, hardworking and unstoppable people who are willing to give anything just to see their brothers happy.

COVID-19 rocked society

Now, Medellin had to give up its dreams. Most people said goodbye to stable jobs, while others said goodbye to casual work, which ensured their daily subsistence. All this because of the quarantine introduced by the state at the advent of the new coronavirus.

Regulations that prevent the spread of the epidemic have exposed the level of social inequality that, in fact, is experienced by all of Colombia, not just Medellín. 

While the rich live comfortably in quarantine, the middle class is closing its businesses due to bankruptcies, and the lowest class is wandering around the city and starving.

Humanitarianism is awakening

But not everything is so very black. There are a number of groups working in Medellín, carrying out various actions to alleviate the needs that arose unexpectedly during the quarantine period. For example, our administrative unit (Antioquia) has organized several charities for the benefit of the poorest. 

Social groups, the police, the military and private companies have managed to collect thousands of packages of basic foodstuffs (oil, flour, salt and sugar) which they deliver to the doorsteps of families in need.

Die from hunger
Source:, photo: Cortesía

On the other hand, the government – together with the Archdiocesan Food Bank – has joined forces to reach the most vulnerable.

We can also appreciate the media as, in collaboration with artists, writers and support groups, they create entertaining content on social media, television and radio.

Cut off from the world and help

Despite all the good that the state and other organizations have done, they fail to meet the needs of all the people of Medellín. More precisely, they do not reach all the remote municipalities located in San Javier, San Domingo , some parts of Bella, Castilla and elsewhere. 

The government simply didn’t get there because people don’t have computers, smartphones with internet and special apps to be able to receive a donation.

Die from hunger
Colombian singer Bomby organized a concert to buy computers for school-age children in one of the neighborhoods (source:alianzanews)

But we know that neither is directly to blame for this. The government simply cannot supply such a crowd with modern technology. But people are not responsible either, as they have never been able to buy them.

These poor people are living without electricity, water and without the basic conditions for a decent life right now as I write this.

Without water and electricity

Even if technology was delivered to them, they would not be able to use it because they simply do not have the basic necessities. Before the pandemic, they had some casual work to be able to pay bills and eat at least one meal a day. Now they don’t even have that.

Die from hunger

All they want is to live with dignity. If they get sick, they can’t even go to the hospital because they don’t have the money for transportation and the high cost of treatment. They are only asking for the basics to safely weather the pandemic. 

Dilemma: To die of a virus or to die of starvation?

These people now think something like this:

“If I go out for food, I will die of the virus, if I stay home, I will die of starvation. So what should I do? What should I tell my children? They have to study for school, and I can’t help them with that because we don’t have a computer or a smartphone to be able to connect with teachers . If only I could somehow earn the money to buy it. But what if I can’t go out? They have to eat too. What should I put on their table? ”

Die from hunger

They keep coming back to this question: What to do? In what way would you rather die? 

No, it’s not about a horror movie or that ‘Pandemic’ movie. That is, unfortunately, the reality. Medellin is a city that suffers. Where children are slowly dying because of the most horrible thing – starvation.

We know that not only Medellin and Colombia, but also the rest of the world, are not prepared for such circumstances. We will not be able to continue like this.

And I can only hope you don’t have to ask yourself: In what way would you rather die today, to die of a virus or to die of starvation?

I thank Silva and Nace, the Operando Society, and you, the reader, for allowing me to share my thoughts on something that touches my heart so deeply.

Daniela Rodríguez Pérez (21 years old) is a psychology student and is completing her seventh semester of study at the University of Medellín in Colombia. She is a young and thoughtful girl who above all wants the injustices and corruption in her country to end. She is a girl who wants to grow in all areas of life and is happy to gain new knowledge. Beside her stand her family, friends, and also the Claretian missionaries. With them, she learned to love people from the fringes of society and to donate her talents to them.

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