In Venezuela the country’s economy is in freefall and one in three Venezuelans is struggling to put enough food on the table to meet minimum nutrition requirements, according to a study by the UN World Food Programme.
With contraceptives hard to come by and beyond the financial means of many, unwanted pregnancies are common. Strict abortion laws which only allow for terminations in cases when the mother’s life is in danger further limit women’s choices.
Amid the economic crisis, one charity said in 2018 that it had seen the number of babies abandoned in the streets or left at the entrances of public buildings increase by 70%.
The Venezuelan government has not released any official figures in recent years and neither the communications ministry nor the government body dealing with the rights of children answered requests for comment.
But social services and health workers consulted by the BBC confirmed there had been an increase in the number of abandoned babies as well as a spike in those handed over for informal adoption.
A sign created by Eric Mejicano reads ‘’Dumping babies is forbidden,”. The Venezuelan artist posted the signs on walls across Venezuela after a newborn was found in the rubbish near his apartment block in the capital, Caracas.
Mejicano says that he launched the campaign to alert people to the fact that in Venezuela “something is becoming common which should never be considered normal”.
Nelson Villasmill is a member of a child protection council in one of Caracas’ poorest areas. He explains that, faced with a poorly funded adoption system that is in total disarray, desperate parents sometimes resort to shortcuts.