Monday, February 17, 2020

In Argentina, "it has become a luxury to drink milk"

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Children eat at a soup kitchen in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, Argentina, on September 17. NATACHA PISARENKO / AP

The comedor Señor de los Milagros is nestled in the heart of a small slum in the center of Buenos Aires. From Monday to Friday, about fifteen women cook and distribute hot meals here to the families of the district. " There are always more people, some come from far away "says Susana Cardenas, one of the managers of this canteen that depends on the social organization La Dignidad (dignity) and the majority of food is delivered by the Argentine Ministry of Social Development.

Provisions that have been lacking for several months. " The most urgent thing is milk for children. We do not get enough, laments Susana Cardenas. It has become a luxury to drink. " In one year, its price has increased by almost 90%. Per capita consumption is at its lowest level since 2003.

"The food sector is the most affected by inflation (55% in one year). And that first affects poor families who spend most of their income on food, " says Candelaria Botto, professor of economics at the University of Buenos Aires. Half of Argentina's children currently live below the poverty line.

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" The social situation has deteriorated sharply "confirms Mariana Heredia, research sociologist at the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (Conicet). " Wages do not increase at the rate of inflation. The buying power of Argentineans is gradually being reduced: they replace beef with chicken, chicken with sausages, sausages with pastaAnd come to skip meals. "

A little girl is holding a pastry at a soup kitchen in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, Argentina, on September 17.
A little girl is holding a pastry at a soup kitchen in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, Argentina, on September 17. NATACHA PISARENKO / AP

35% of Argentines under the poverty line

In mid-September, after weeks of mobilization of political and social organizations, parliamentarians extended until 2022 a food emergency law. This text was adopted in 2002, during the last great crisis that devastated Argentina. The Congress also voted a 50% increase in the state budget allocated to food aid, which should allow to supply more regularly organizations fighting hunger, such as the movement La Dignidad. To the comedor Señor de los Milagros, in any case, " we have not seen anything happen yet ", denounces Susana Cardenas.

For meme Heredia, " this law was necessary, but it is not a lasting solution. Argentina did not discover poverty in 2015 (date of the coming to power of the center-right president Mauricio Macri, candidate for re-election on 27 October). There is structural poverty that is very difficult to eliminate. Since the 1970s, the country has at least 25% of the poor. "

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