A hungry 11-year-old boy’s call to the police mobilizes the entire country

Miguel had eaten nothing but diluted cornmeal for three days, so he sought help. His story, reported by the local press, moved the whole of Brazil. Since then, donations have flooded his family.

A week ago, Celia Barros’ fridge was hopelessly empty. Today, this Brazilian single mother no longer knows where to store food from the ever-flowing donations after her son called the police for help.

“Mr. Officer, we don’t have anything to eat at home,” Miguel, 11, told the policeman who answered the emergency number last Tuesday.

Three days have passed since the seven family members who live in an attic in Santa Luzia, near Belo Horizonte (southeast), were fed only on cornmeal diluted in water.

Donations flow

The officer who received the call sent the police to the scene, thinking it was a case of domestic neglect. But what they saw was a very familiar sight: a mother unable to feed her children as inflation eroded the purchasing power of the poorest economy in Latin America.

Then the police went to the supermarket to bring food to the family, some paid for it from his pocket and the other was given by the store manager, who explained to him why they were in the neighborhood.

When the local press told this touching story, the tragedy of the Barros family conveyed all of Brazil and donations began to pour in. The narrow kitchen, previously devoid of any food items, looks like a small shop.

‘Hunger hurts so much’

“We received a lot of food, a lot of different things, even foods I didn’t know about,” said young Miguel, opening a full cupboard.

Her mother Celia, 46, has eight children, six of whom she’s raising alone today. She survived thanks to odd jobs, but found herself out of work during the Covid-19 crisis.

“We have suffered so much. Hunger hurts me so much, I will never forget those moments,” she sighs, holding a small baby, her youngest in her arms.

“After a while, you didn’t even have the strength to get up. Miguel saw me in despair, in tears, and decided to act. Thank God, that changed everything.”

Massive hunger returns in Brazil

This family’s plight has had a special resonance in a country where hunger is once again a major problem, having been virtually eradicated in the past decade.

For the first time since 2014, Brazil reappeared on the United Nations’ “global hunger map” this year, with 28.9% of the population living in a state of “moderate food insecurity”. or severe.

Images of starving people fighting over the bones in trash containers are increasingly circulating on social media.

In this painful context, Célia prides itself on being able to help neighbors in need to fill their refrigerators. “We’ve received so many donations that now, as I don’t have anything, I can help others,” she says.

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