Second Place - 2020 Feature Picture Story/Essay
Death has become an overwhelming financial burden for many of Venezuelas poorest, who already struggle to find dignity in life. They scrape together food and shelter needed to get through each day, and a relative's death can become the breaking point.
The cost of transporting a body, buying a casket and burial plot for a funeral can run into the hundreds of dollars, or more. In Venezuela, most earn the minimum wage of roughly $3 a month as hyperinflation devours pay.
Some overcome the financial burden of a relative's death by renting caskets, a cheaper option than buying one. Others turn to amateur morticians, who embalm bodies at home and convert wooden furniture into coffins.
For many in Maracaibo, Venezuela's economic crash in the last five years hit especially hard.
Among life's struggle, too often comes the need to provide a relative with a dignified death.
Community activist Carolin Leal has assumed the role of funeral director in her poor and often violent Maracaibo neighborhood of Altos de Milagro Norte, hoping to rid families of unnecessary misery she's seen too many times. Leal, 42, has formed a team with two other neighbors who employ their unique skills to bring dignity to the dead. One busy month recently, Leal said she oversaw 12 funerals.
Zaida Bravo, who suffers Parkinson's disease and is malnourished, waits for dinner on her dirty mattress in her one room living quarters in Maracaibo, Venezuela, Nov. 28, 2019. The 48-year-old's sister Ana Bravo brings her food when she can, but for the last four years the older sister has had trouble affording even rice or cornmeal. We can't find her medicine or even know how to help her, so we're letting what happens happen, Ana Bravo, 57, said. Sometimes, I'm afraid to go inside and find her dead.
Rodrigo Abd / Associated Press