Venezuelan Government Seeks to Help Homeless Children

President Chavez met with cabinet members to assess the results of government social programs and to launch a new program to eliminate homelessness among children, one of Chavez's unfulfilled campaign promises.

Caracas, Venezuela. Jan 5 ( Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez met on Saturday with cabinet members to assess the results of government-sponsored social programs and to discuss plans and goals for the year 2004.

Minister of Education, Culture and Sports, Aristobulo Isturiz, who attended the meeting, said the balance for 2003 was a positive one. The social programs -or “Missions”, as Chavez calls them- reviewed at the meeting were Mission Robinson (literacy program), Mission Sucre (access to Higher Education ror the poor), Mission Ribas (for high school dropouts), Mission Barrio Adentro (primary health care for poor communities), Mission Cristo (anti-poverty), Mission Negra Matea (for homeless children), Mission Guaicaipuro (social programs especially targeted to indigenous communities), and Mission Piar (development of mining).

“We not only proposed goals for these programs, but also took into account the financial costs of each of the programs,” said Isturiz.

Isturiz said that “on July 5th illiteracy will be completely eliminated in Venezuela”. July 5th is the anniversary of Venezuela’s the declaration of independence from Spanish rule.

“The success of the Barrio Adentro (Inside the Neighborhood) program is undeniable, through which more than 6 million health-related cases have been attended,” said Isturiz. “Barrio Adentro” is a medical program implemented in Caracas by Mayor Freddy Bernal, geared towards bringing basic primary medical care to poor communities that have little of no access to the poorly funded and inefficient public hospitals. The majority of the doctors that work in the program are low paid medical experts from Cuba, although there is now an increasing number of local doctors and from other countries such as Germany.

Mission Ribas is currently helping about half a million high school dropouts, according to Isturiz, and 100.000 are expected to get into universities.

Isturiz added that no new plans were discussed, and that the emphasis will be placed in consolidating the current ones and improving the synergy between different government and private institutions to increase the effectiveness of the programs.

Unfulfilled Campaign Promise

Mission Negra Matea, geared to help homeless children, will go into effect in upcoming weeks, and several government ministries will be working together, coordinated by the Minister of Health and Social Development Roger Capella.

Eliminating homelessness among children is one of President Chavez’s campaign promises that has gone unfulfilled.