Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is giving a vital life-line to some of the poorest families in Brazil’s Amazonia State hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Pontifical Foundation is supporting an initiative by the Capuchin Friars Minor of the Custody of the Amazon and Roraima, providing food baskets for 100 poverty stricken families every month.

Brother Paolo Maria Braghini told ACN that the project, which runs from February to August 2021, is vital given the grinding poverty in Manaus – the capital of Amazonas State, where infection rates soared by 42.3 percent in the last week of April.

He said: “At this historic moment, especially with the second wave of the pandemic, hunger is really weeping and crying out to heaven.

“We have families in the suburbs who have nothing to live on. Many of them have come from the interior of the country and arrived here in the hope of finding food in the city.

“But here they are only finding hunger and unemployment.

“To cap it all, now they don’t even have a vegetable patch to grow food on, or a river to fish in.”

Wherever possible the Franciscan friars are trying to provide longer-term solutions to food poverty, and are providing seeds so families can grow their own vegetables in flower pots.

Brother Paolo said: “We want to help them overcome this ingrained mentality of passive receiving.

“They need to do something themselves in order to get out of their situation, whenever possible.”

Brother Paolo explained how, with the help of local community leaders, they had identified families facing financial crises because of coronavirus.

This included, “large families and very poor families, many widows, people suffering from tuberculosis and the unemployed who have little hope that this life will give them a new opportunity”.

Among those receiving emergency food aid is Fátima da Conceição, in Amazonas’ Colônia Terra Nova quarter.

She said: “This donation has arrived just when we were going through the most difficult time. You are helping us so that we can eat each day.

“I am so grateful to you all. May God bless each and every one of the people who have contributed to this.”

Brother Paolo told ACN “You have already helped us for many projects, and both we and our people are infinitely grateful to you for this.”

ACN’s help for the Franciscans in Brazil has included Mass stipends and a boat to enable pastoral work in villages that can only be reached by river.