The COVID-19 Pandemic is hurting everyone around the world, but as is the case with all natural disasters, it is hurting the poor and the vulnerable most. Governments claim to help, but their assistance programs are frequently misguided and ineffective.
I've seen first hand the poverty and desperation that the Venezuelan refugee population faces in Colombia--and similar poverty and desperation among the poor in Colombia. The COVID-19 pandemic is creating a malnutrition crisis, and it threatens to amplify the pandemic's death toll.
I am committed to doing everything I can to help. Due to travel restrictions, I can't get to Colombia right now, but luckily, I've built a network of wonderful freedom activists who share my vision of a freer and more prosperous world. Movemiento Libertario Colombia, led by the amazing Maria Alejandro Londono, is ready to assist, and we've created an amazing initiative designed to deliver maximum life-saving impact.
We are aiming to address two key nutritional deficiencies that are already prevalent among the Venezuelan refugee population, in a way that can save lives: iron deficiency in children, and folic acid deficiency in pregnant woman. These are already major problems among this population, and they are poised to get a lot worse as this crisis goes on.
Iron deficiency in children leads to poor growth, increased susceptibility to infections, higher rates of mortality and behavioral disturbances throughout life. Folic acid deficiency in pregnant women leads to a devastating form of birth defects called neural tube defects. We believe that by providing nutritionally targeted foods to specific vulnerable populations, we can improve and save lives.
We have identified a food production company in Colombia, with ongoing operations, capable of producing low cost nutritionally-fortified foods. I visited their factory and met with the owner during my last visit to Colombia. We've also identified a series of food banks capable of distributing these nutritionally-fortified foods to the populations that need them most, along with the education in how to use them.
The products we will be distributing are: an orange juice based powdered drink fortified with iron (by combining it with orange juice, the iron is better absorbed), and a powdered supplement drink containing folic acid for pregnant women. These products, while not capable of replacing normal foods, go a long way towards addressing the most pressing nutritional deficiencies that we believe will be exacerbated by this crisis.
Governments are extremely unlikely to provide meaningful solutions to these problems. That's why individuals and private non-profit groups must step up. Because of my frequent travel to the region and my connection with activists on the ground, I believe I have the opportunity to effectively deploy private resources to make a real impact in the lives of vulnerable people.
But, I need your help. I will be personally matching the first $2,000 that is donated to this drive--so the impact of your donation will be doubled. The cost of the food products, including distribution, are about $1 per unit. For $30, you can provide a refugee child with iron supplementation, as well as needed calories during a period of crisis-driven undernourishment for an entire month.
Can you spare $30 to spare a child the worse consequences of this crisis?
For anyone who makes a donation to this campaign, I will be organizing a special reception during our conference in Medellin as my way of saying thanks. We've moved the dates to January 2021 due to the pandemic, but we remain extremely excited for this event!
If you want to make an impact for someone less fortunate than yourself during this crisis, I can't think of a better opportunity.
Kyle Varner, MD
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