Crisis in VenezuelaIn March 2013, after a 14-year rule, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died of cancer. He was succeeded by Vice President Nicolas Maduro. Since then, the oil-rich but cash-poor South American country has been in a political and economic crisis. Here are 10 things you should know about the crisis in Venezuela.

10 Things to Know About the Crisis in Venezuela

  1. Inflation rates are at an all-time high. The biggest problem in the day-to-day lives of Venezuelans is due to the record high inflation rates. Throughout the Chavez presidency, the inflation rate had fluctuated between 10 and 40 percent but never higher. Since Maduro took office inflation rates have grown exponentially. In 2018, the inflation rate hit 1.3 million percent and is projected to reach 10 million in 2019. With inflation being so high, it becomes impossible for Venezuelans to buy basic necessities.
  2. Minimum wage is as low as $6 a month. On top of the high inflation rate, the minimum wage is now $6 dollars a month. Nearly 90 percent of the country’s population is living in poverty and unable to buy basic goods. Additionally, the number of active companies in Venezuela has dropped dramatically, minimizing the number of jobs available to citizens.
  3. More than 3 million people have fled the country. Over the last five years, the crisis in Venezuela has forced more than 3 million people out of their homes. Most of these refugees have claimed that the lack of rights to health and food were among the main reasons for them to leave. These migrants, who made up roughly 10 percent of the Venezuelan population, have fled to neighboring countries including Chile, Colombia and Brazil.
  4. There are currently two presidents. Since 2019 started, political tensions in Venezuela have escalated. In early January, President Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a second term, following an election period of boycotts and opposition. The results of this election led to a new wave of rallies throughout the streets of Venezuela, particularly the capital city of Caracas. These boycotts culminated with the elected leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Juan Guaido, naming himself interim president.
  5. The rest of the world is very split over who to support. The most unique part about Guaido declaring himself interim president is that several countries around the world immediately acknowledged it as legitimate. The United States, much of Europe and several South American countries recognize Guaido as the rightful interim president of Venezuela. However, Russia, China and most of the Middle East still recognize Maduro as the president. Additionally, some countries, including Italy, are calling for a new election to determine the rightful president.
  6. Oil output has declined dramatically. Venezuela has over 300 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, making it a leader amongst the world’s oil-rich countries. Oil production dropped in 2002 after Chavez was first elected, but soon after, it rose back up to regular rates and has been steady since. Since 2012, however, there has been a consistent decrease in oil output. In January 2019, President Trump announced that the U.S. will not import oil from Venezuela for the time being, in hopes that economic pressure will lead to correcting the political crisis.
  7. There have been countless mass protests across the country. The crisis in Venezuela has sparked riots and rallies across the whole country. In 2018 alone, there were more than 12 thousand protests, according to the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict. These protests, starting in 2002 after Chavez came to power, have only escalated in violence since.
  8. Officials have resorted to excessive use of force. In April of 2017, Maduro ordered armed forces to put a stop to what had been weeks of anti-government protests. In the two months to follow, more than 120 people were killed, 2,000 were injured and more than 5,000 were detained. Since then, multiple citizens have been killed or injured when police and protesters have clashed.
  9. Maduro’s administration denies that it is in a human rights crisis. Despite the statistics pointing to the crisis in Venezuela, Maduro and his administration have not acknowledged the human rights crisis. Additionally, the administration has not recognized the shortages of food and medication, and, as a result, it has not accepted international humanitarian assistance. Despite the lack of official recognition, the current state of Venezuela has been regarded as the worst humanitarian crisis in recent memory in the Western Hemisphere.
  10. The crisis is taking a toll on the overall health of the country. Since 2014, the number of malaria cases in Venezuela has more than quadrupled. After years of remaining steadily below 100 thousand cases, there are now more than 400 thousand people living in Venezuela with malaria. This is because there is a dramatic shortage of anti-malaria drugs for all strains. Medical facilities are struggling with a shortage of 85 percent for medications. At least 13 thousand Venezuelan doctors were among those who have fled the country. A lack of proper medical care is making the people of Venezuela more susceptible to treatable diseases such as tuberculosis.

The crisis in Venezuela is worsening by the day. There are countless people being forced to leave their homes, jobs and families in hopes of finding a safer place to live. While the country awaits political intervention and foreign aid, there are still ways for people overseas to give help. Many nonprofit organizations, including The Better World Campaign, are doing their part in helping the humanitarian crisis. These groups are always looking for volunteers and donations. Spreading the word about the situation in Venezuela, raising awareness and mobilizing others to donate is also a great way to help, even from afar.

Charlotte Kriftcher
Photo: Flickr

children in venezuela
In a nation experiencing an economic crisis, the children of Venezuela are suffering. Poverty is on the rise, including an increase in the malnutrition of children due to limited access to resources. Families fleeing to Peru have traveled quite far. Along the way, many have faced discrimination due to their migrant status. UNICEF and Plan International have developed a strategy for aiding children who are experiencing rapid changes in their home lives. They are helping children in Venezuela find a “Happiness Plan.”

Conditions in Venezuela

At one time, Venezuela was part of a wealthier portion of Latin America. However, with new officials and underdevelopment, poverty is now abundant. A large number of resources were focused toward developing the oil industry while other developments were delayed. With the newfound prosperity that oil brought, the economic gap grew further and further apart. The consequences of such destitution can be easily seen in the adults and children of Venezuela. Food, medicine, water and other resources are greatly lacking. This leaves people desperately searching for food.

The desperation associated with poverty was significantly increased in March due to a five-day blackout. Resources like food and water were even more scarce than usual. Some resorted to collecting water from sewage pipes. Multitudes of people were left without food. People rushed to stores to find food but discovered that the stores were already stripped. Some stores were even trashed and burnt in the chaos that ensued with riots. The riots were also the cause of several deaths from untreated medical conditions to gunshot wounds. Hospitals operated under less than ideal conditions, with limited access to electricity and supplies, such as soap.

The Effects of This Crisis On Children

In a press release, UNICEF stated, “ While precise figures are unavailable because of very limited official health or nutrition data, there are clear signs that the crisis is limiting children’s access to quality health services, medicines and food.” Statistics about conditions in Venezuela can be hard to come by, and the ones that are available are often disheartening. Malnutrition is becoming a larger issue for the children of Venezuela. While the government has attempted some measures of addressing the problem, such as monthly packages of food for sale, more still needs to be done to provide for the Venezuelan people.

As a result of the continued crisis in Venezuela, many have fled the country. As of 2018, two million people had already left Venezuela; without a doubt, numerous others have left since. For those who are awaiting refugee status or to be reunited with lost family members, UNICEF has created a safe place to help children with this difficult time.

The Happiness Plan

The “Happiness Plan” is a safe space for children that has been set up in a tent in the country of Peru. Filled with games, coloring pages and books, this tent provides an outlet for children to be children while awaiting their official entry into Peru. In addition to the fun activities, the “Happiness Plan” offers psychosocial support from professionals for children struggling with these difficult transitions they are facing.

Some of the children passing through the tent have been separated from their families. They are awaiting the chance to rejoin their families in Peru. Others are with some members of their nuclear family but had to leave the rest of their family and friends behind them in Venezuela. One survey taken by UNICEF and the International Organization for Migration stated that 73 percent of Venezuelan families in Tumbes, Peru, had to leave behind one or more of their children.

In such a dismal time for Venezuela, it is reassuring to know that organizations such as UNICEF and Plan International are implementing programs to help these children who have experienced such abrupt change. They will undoubtedly need physical and psychological support to heal from the trauma they have experienced in their home country.

Carolyn Newsome
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Venezuela
Life expectancy rates in Venezuela may have looked very different a decade ago under Hugo Chavez, but now the country caught the attention of the world with the presidency of Nicolas Maduro, which has resulted in civil unrest. The country is facing extreme hyperinflation and a reduced supply of power, healthcare and food, which has ensured the exodus of more than three million citizens in recent years. Although the country has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, its economy seems to have collapsed within months. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Venezuela.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Venezuela

  1. In terms of life expectancy at birth, Venezuela was ranked 92 in the world in 2017, with a total life expectancy at birth of about 76 years. The expectancy of males is 70 while that of females is 79.
  2. Coronary heart disease has been cited as the chief cause of death, resulting in roughly 16 percent of all deaths, followed by Cardiovascular disease, which had almost the same death toll as violence. The cardiovascular problems have been attributed to the increasing trend of a sedentary lifestyle that more people are leading now due to urbanization of the area.
  3. The country reached its lowest infant mortality rate of 14.3 percent in 2010. Unfortunately, there has been an increase since that year with the rate shooting up to 25.7 percent in 2017 from 22.2 percent in the previous year. The researchers from The Lancet Global Health could not determine one cause of the trend, but it indicated a number of factors that may be responsible such as the collapse of healthcare and macroeconomic policies.
  4. Maternal mortality rates have increased 65 percent to 756 deaths in 2016 from 6.3 percent in the earlier year. I Love Venezuela is an NGO that has been trying to reduce these rates by providing more than 4,200 families with medical supplies.
  5. The data provided by Venezuela to the World Health Organization showed that cases of Zika virus increased from 71 to 59,348 in 2016. This increase was likely one of the causes of the significant rise in both infant and maternal mortality rates.
  6. Encovi, the Encuesta de Condiciones de Vida, a survey on living conditions done by a group of universities, found that the citizens lost an average of 24 pounds of body weight in 2017 due to extreme hunger. Around 61.2 percent of the population was living in extreme poverty. The study also reported that poverty rates had increased from the previous year from 82 percent to 87 percent. Furthermore, 61.9 percent of the adult population reported going to bed hungry because they couldn’t afford to buy food. A U.S. based NGO, Mercy Corps, has expanded their operations on the Colombo-Venezuelan borders to appease such disparities as many Venezuelans are crossing the border into Colombia to escape the skyrocketing food prices.
  7. There has been a staggering increase in the number of children dying from malnutrition and dehydration that have been reported in recent years. South American Initiative is trying to mitigate the situation and has been successful in providing 1,500 meals per week and clean drinking water to the orphans and malnourished adults in the hospitals to tackle the enlarging of malnourished patients.
  8. As per the 2017 survey done by the Congress of Venezuela, nine out of 10 main hospitals of the country were found to be short of diagnostic facilities, including x-ray machines and laboratories, with 64 percent of hospitals being unable to supply food to their patients. Healing Venezuela is an NGO fighting the expanding lack of medical services and doctors in the country. They have provided seven tons of urgent medical supplies to hospitals and NGOs in need.
  9. Cuatro Por Venezuela Foundation has been able to assist 130 hospitals and institutions with more than 480,000 individuals served and more than 39,500 patients treated with its various programs targeting food, health, formula and school supplies.
  10. The country’s National Assembly estimated that prices rose 4,608 percent in 12 months in the span of 2017 to the end of January. Reports from the International Monetary Fund estimate that the inflation in Venezuela will rise to 10 million percent in 2019, an alarming projected increase from 1.37 million in 2018.

The Fight Continues

The former Health Minister, Antonieta Caporale, was fired shortly after he had released the health statistics in 2017, which were the only data provided by the government. The Venezuelan National Assembly had announced a humanitarian crisis in the country, further pleading for international humanitarian aid, which was quashed by the President.

Though these 10 facts about life expectancy in Venezuela may seem bleak, there is hope for the country with NGOs playing a major role in helping improve the current state. Several organizations are working towards improving the condition of Venezuela, including the Trump administration who have shown support and held secret meetings with the opposing military forces to formulate plans to overthrow President Maduro.

– Nikhil Sharma

Photo: Flickr

Venezuela
What began as an economic recession in Venezuela has quickly escalated into a humanitarian crisis where one must fight to survive. Venezuela is steadily becoming the most violent country in the world. At least 28,479 deaths of a violent nature occurred in 2016, and the nation currently holds a homicide rate of 91.8 for every 100,000 people. The hunger crisis and the fact that 82 percent of its population is living in poverty could be linked with the growing rate of crime and violence in Venezuela.

Conditions Leading Up to the Violence

In 2014, Venezuela was struck by an economic recession caused by the decline in oil prices – Venezuela’s primary export. Its biggest shortfall came with the collapse of Venezuela’s currency when the price of imported goods swelled and the country was forced to limit the number of goods brought in. Staples like toilet paper or rice were often impossible to find, and when one did locate them, such essential products were often too expensive to buy. A shortage in even basic medicines and medical supplies began causing serious concerns.

The Borgen Project was fortunate enough to interview Venezuelan national and Ph.D. student, Maria Alemán. She described the scene, “Picture a supermarket or a grocery store when there is a snow storm in one of the southern states. You go in and everything is empty. There is nothing. That’s how it is there 24/7.” This lack of imported goods has created panic and a hunger crisis in Venezuela. With the widespread panic, Venezuela was faced with having to put strict regulations on many goods available for purchase. “If you get to the store and they are regulating an item, let’s say you want to buy two gallons of milk because you have a big family. Well no, if they are only allowing you to buy a gallon, then that is all you get,” Maria explains.

Lack of Jobs and Resources is Creating Chaos

The collapse of Venezuela’s economy affected the job market. Many businesses’ closed or took their business out of the country, leaving families to struggle with the cost of rising food prices with no source of income or not nearly enough income. “People are starving because the price of food is too expensive, even with a monthly salary,” Maria defends. As conditions grew dire and many were met with the challenge of feeding themselves and their families, crime in Venezuela rose at an epidemic rate. The Venezuelan Observatory on Violence (VOV) reported a 14 percent increase in violent crimes from 2012 to 2013. In 2015, 17,778 people were murdered in Venezuela; however, the VOV revealed that those numbers were as high as 27,875.

Maria recalls a shift in the nature of the crimes as desperation fueled robberies with the threat of violence. “Thieves started to go find knives and guns because there was no other way people were going to go and give them their stuff. People got so upset that they had no choice but to start killing people to actually feel threatened. It’s even worse now because people are having to kill to survive.” With no other resources available, the population turned to violence, either in an effort to attain resources or to protect oneself from others trying to take resources.

If things couldn’t seem any worse, the increase in crime and violence running rampant in the streets of Venezuela was a catalyst for the formation of several crime organizations who have taken to exploiting the hunger of young people to get them to participate in criminal activities, which is only adding to the rising crime rate.

Efforts to Decrease Crime and Violence in Venezuela

While Venezuela has implemented a subsidized food program that benefits 87 percent of Venezuelans, it hasn’t done much to slow the hunger-induced crime sprees. Maria says, “people receive boxes from the government with some food products like rice, flour, etc., but not everyone gets the same products in their boxes. The contents of a single box aren’t enough for a family of four.” Clearly, the government needs to find other solutions than providing a small amount of food per family.

Other attempts to alleviate the situation were raising the minimum wage to 34 times the previous amount and minting a new currency (the “sovereign bolivar”) to replace the “strong bolivar.” Unfortunately, new currency or no, businesses cannot afford to pay the new minimum wage set by the government and are laying off employees or, in the worst case scenario, closing down. There have been attempts by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) to act as a mediator between the people and the government amidst the protesting, but no demands have been met. Although the situation is bleak, the hopes for successful negotiation may be the only way to end the crisis in Venezuela.

Although crime and violence in Venezuela have been commonplace in the past, current living conditions in Venezuela have escalated the crime to new heights, creating a harsh reality many are facing in order to survive. Without the basic means of survival such as a livable wage, job security and even access to basic resources, Venezuela will continue to see a steadily climbing crime and murder rate.

– Catherine Wilson

Photo: Flickr

Aid that Benefits Refugees VenezuelaLatin America is experiencing one of its worst ever migration crises. This region has experienced multiple population movements in its history. Venezuela has seen a mass exodus of people due to four years of economic downfall and the subsequent impoverishment of the citizens.

The Reasons Behind Venezuela Crisis

The problem has been further exacerbated by the re-election of the dictatorial President Nicolas Maduro. The economic policies of President Maduro and former President Hugo Chavez have mismanaged the country’s vast oil reserves and sent the country spiraling into depression. The government has cut imports by over 75 percent, choosing to use its own currency to balance the $140 billion debt. This is an extremely bad decision in a country that produces almost exclusively oil.

The result has been an enormous lack of services within the country and the decrease in GDP. These policies have remained unchanged or challenged because of Maduro’s stranglehold on the country’s media and legal system, in addition to his brutal responses to protests. Accusations of corruption and conspiracies surrounding drug trafficking have plagued Maduro’s career but haven’t challenged his rule in any meaningful way. The United States has responded to these allegations by sanctioning Maduro but this had relatively no effect on Maduro’s behavior. Realizing this fact, the U.S. turned their attention towards aid that benefits Venezuela refugees.

Refugee Crisis in Venezuela

Hopes for change internally seem bleak and have pushed over two million refugees into surrounding countries. At first, refugees are going to neighboring Ecuador, Peru and Columbia, countries that have been very welcoming in the past. Recently, however, the sheer number of migrants leaving Venezuela has forced its neighbors to take more aggressive policies.

Ecuador began blocking entry to refugees fleeing Venezuela with no passports. This policy came after the country declared a state of emergency due to the crisis. Peru and Columbia also announced their plan to adopt a similar policy and to deport migrants that are already within the country but without proper documentation. The policies of both the Government of Venezuela and its neighbors have trapped Venezuelan migrants in makeshift towns along the border, with limited resources. Most Venezuelan migrants sold their possessions in order to leave their country and have little to nothing in these towns.

The Aid of United States to Venezuela

Fortunately, the United States has played an instrumental role in providing aid that benefits refugees from Venezuela. The U.S had already provided $16 million in aid for the refugees through the United Nations Refugee Agency and another $6 million to help Columbia deal with their influx of refugees.

This money helped establish the infrastructure that is maintaining abovementioned makeshift towns and providing necessary health care for millions of people. Recently, the United States sent a life-saving resource to the shores of Columbia. Secretary of Defence, Jim Mattis, is sending a U.S. Navy Hospital Ship to help treat refugees in Colombia and surrounding Latin American countries. Hospital ships provide surgical care from some of the top military physicians in the world. They are protected by international law and help ease the burden on domestic medical institutions, which could influence many of these Latin American countries to take more beneficial positions towards refugees.

U.S. aid for refugees has a ripple effect on the countries that are hosting them because they have more resources at their disposal. This could change their policies in a meaningful way and end this migration process in the most positive way positive.

– Anand Tayal

Photo: Flickr

Cuatro Por VenezuelaVenezuela continues to face an extreme humanitarian crisis with a failing economy, medicine and food shortages and violence. Thousands have fled, and many of those that remain are struggling to find the necessary resources to survive.

While there are many complex issues involved, alleviating the crisis in Venezuela is within the reach of virtually anyone who wants to contribute. The Cuatro Por Venezuela Foundation is providing the way by collecting donations and resources from individuals throughout the world who want to get involved in the cause.

How Cuatro Por Venezuela alleviating the crisis in Venezuela?

In 2016, The Cuatro Por Venezuela Foundation was founded by four Venezuelan women living in The United States. With the vision of fundraising to deliver resource packages to Venezuelans in need, they have made tremendous progress in a short amount of time, delivering supplies to more than 130 hospitals and institutions in 14 of the 23 states in Venezuela.

The foundation’s Health Program focuses on four core objectives: decreasing the medicine and medical supply shortages, preventing complications from chronic diseases, decreasing the resurgence of diseases through vaccinations and prevention methods and decreasing the mortality of hospitalized patients. The annual report for the organization showed that they served 17,375 medical patients last year.

The desperation associated with the medicine shortages and inflation in Venezuela has led to the rise of black markets. While these markets have created greater access to much-needed medicines, this accessibility comes at a great risk. José Oberto Leal, the President at the School of Medicine in Zulia, Venezuela, has “found that a lot of them [the drugs] have not been maintained at proper temperatures.”

The need for organizations, like Cuatro Por Venezuela, that can properly maintain and deliver these very medications is abundant in times like these. Its efforts are vital to alleviating further medical issues for locals in a time when medical institutions are unstable, understaffed and lacking in resources.

Other Projects by Cuatro Por Venezuela

Beyond fundraising and mailing supplies, the organization is getting involved on the ground alleviating the crisis in Venezuela. One of the foundation’s most recent projects, Projecto Nodriza in Petare, Caracas, is delivering food to mothers in the area to use to cook for their families. They are also sending nutritionists to guide local mothers on ways in which they can eat properly and provide proper natal care for their babies with limited resources.

The organization’s Food Program is its newest branch, having started in May 2017. In just seven months, 20,000 meals were delivered to orphanages, nursing homes and to local organizations that cook for the homeless. Meals were also delivered to rural schools, providing students with at least one meal a day on school days and weekends.

As the economy has failed, so too have the school systems in Venezuela. Annual school dropout rates have doubled since 2011, in part due to the inability of many low-income families to buy school uniforms, shoes, backpacks and other required supplies, according to the foundation. Cuatro Por Venezuela is not only addressing the health and food crises but it is also improving access to education for low-income children through a program called Schools with Smiles.

Cuatro Por Venezuela is alleviating the crisis in Venezuela on several levels. In doing so, they are providing a platform for ordinary people to get involved, whether it be through their grassroots initiatives on the ground in local communities or from afar through donations and resource packages. As a U.S. based foundation, Cuatro Por Venezuela’s grassroots initiatives allow them to have a meaningful impact on the lives of the people they serve and ensure that their donors’ dollars are making it to those communities as well.

While solving the grand issues behind the economic crisis in Venezuela may not be in the foundation’s repertoire, making a difference in the lives of those most affected by the crisis is. The efforts of Cuatro Por Venezuela, as well as those of its partners and donors, have and will continue to be a key part of alleviating the crisis in Venezuela.

– Julius Long

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Venezuela
The situation in Venezuela, sparked by political turmoil and hyperinflation, has denigrated into a dire case of global poverty. Despite its former status as one of the richest countries in South America and its access to the largest oil rig in the world, Venezuela’s economy has sparked both a humanitarian crisis and a refugee crisis within South America. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Venezuela:

Food Scarcity & Weight loss

According to a study by three universities in Venezuela, 74.3 percent of the population lost an average of 19 pounds of weight in 2015, and around 9.6 million Venezuelans ate two or fewer meals a day.

Due to past government subsidies of oil production, the people of Venezuela have historically relied heavily on imports of even basic necessities rather than domestic production.

Now that Venezuela’s borders have been closed and its currency devalued, imported resources within Venezuela have become increasingly scarce, making food prices rise significantly.

Population and Inflation

Approximately 81 percent of Venezuela’s 31.5 million people are now considered to be living in income poverty, while over 50 percent are estimated to be living in extreme poverty.

Additionally, the IMF predicts that inflation will reach 13,000 percent in the coming year, making it the biggest recession in the history of the Western Hemisphere — twice as large as the Great Depression.

Education Decline

For a country that once boasted free education for all students under Hugo Chavez’s socialist regime, the education structure in Venezuela is crumbling under the current economic crisis. Many schools in Venezuela have closed or are operating at limited capacity.

Such conditions are due to insufficient salaries for school teachers who are working for just over a dollar a month, as well as lack of school lunches as the government has run out of funds for the state-run program that provided children with free lunch. An increasing number of children have stopped going to school because, without food, they may faint in class.

Of 8 million school children, approximately 3 million students have stopped attending some or all classes. Education professionals within Venezuela fear for a future of uneducated and unskilled workers if this trend continues too long.

Lack of Hygiene

As most families have been scraping by just to put food on the table, those receiving the minimum wage face a choice every time they receive their paycheck: food or hygiene? According to Jonathan Marquez, a security guard and now also a taxi driver, he always picks food, adding water to the little bit of shampoo that he has left to make soap.

Additionally, one reporter from Venezuela spent 86 percent of the monthly minimum wage on eight rolls of toilet paper, after failing to find it in any stores for a whole week.

Businesses Cannot Operate

Number five of the top 10 facts about living conditions in Venezuela is that lack of resources for the individual means lack of resources for small businesses as well. The economic emergency in Venezuela has led to declining business within Venezuela, resulting in layoffs and even many business shut-downs.

Hairdressers only have running water two days a week and hair products are scarce to find; bakers have no flour to make bread; restaurant owners have no customers to cook for and very little pasta to cook.

Lack of Medicine

The medical profession is suffering as well. While doctors can still prescribe medicine, there is hardly any medicine to supply to their patients as the country endures an estimated 85 percent shortage of medicine, according to the Pharmaceutical Federation of Venezuela. Chronic diseases like kidney disease or diabetes are not being treated due to this limited supply of medicine, which leads to serious health risks.

A box of ten pills for high blood pressure can be more than a retiree’s monthly pension. Even highly preventable and curable diseases can now develop into life-threatening illnesses from the lack of antibiotics and proper treatment.

Water and Electricity Shortages

Drought from the Guri Dam has sparked a country-wide rationing of water and electricity. The hydroelectric plants in the reservoir contribute to 70 percent of the nation’s electricity supply.

While a standardized 4 hour outage was enacted daily, residents have noted that some days there is no electricity for up to 14 hours. In efforts to conserve electricity, Maduro has cut public sector work weeks to two days per week.

Concerning water rationing, faucets only run once or twice a week for most people; however, in harder-to-reach places like Margarita Island, water is only supplied once every 21 days.

Violence and Protests

Street protests and looting have become almost commonplace in Venezuela as people continue to lose faith in their government. In three months, 111 protests were recorded in Sucre — one of Venezuela’s 23 states — as reported by Indice, a human rights group monitoring the protests.

Reporters have noted 5 or 6 protests per week, all demanding basic necessities and fighting through tear gas and rubber bullets to get it.

The South American Refugee Crisis

To escape the turmoil within Venezuela, there has been a mass exodus into neighboring countries, particularly Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile. The UNHCR estimates that nearly 5000 people escape from Venezuela each day, totaling 2.3 million migrants from Venezuela since 2015.

While South American border policies have eased the refugee migration process for many Venezuelan people, neighboring countries are not equipped with the facilities and resources to host refugees in the capacity at which they’re arriving.

Aid and Access

Government restrictions under President Maduro have rejected humanitarian aid by obstructing shipments, particularly targeting medicine, but that does not mean that there is nothing that can be done. Church groups and non-profit organizations like Sanando and the Cuatro Por Venezuela Foundation are doing their best to provide aid to the people of Venezuela.

Cuatro Por Venezuela began in 2016 when four Venezuelan women living in the U.S. decided to deliver relief to their country. They have since provided over 50,000 food servings per year and attended to over 17,000 medical patients. Neighboring countries, such as Colombia, have also been immensely helpful to Venezuelan refugees by providing food and shelter for hundreds of thousands of people.

While the U.S. is still pressing sanctions on President Maduro, Mike Pence has promised $48 million to support regional partners that are taking on the brunt of this crisis.

Giving Hand, Willing Heart

The humanitarian readiness to help is inspiring; however, the onus remains on Nicolas Maduro and the Venezuelan government to open its borders to aid and imports to ensure the safety and health of their people.

The U.S. government and the world is ready to help alleviate the situation in Venezuela. The hope is that these top 10 facts about living conditions in Venezuela will have significantly changed by next year.

– Sara Andresen
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Venezuela

Venezuela is in crisis. On the verge of economic collapse, riots proliferate in the streets along with demands for an end to the populist, authoritarian government. Much of this anger is directed at President Nicolas Maduro — since his arrival to office in 2013, poverty rates in Venezuela have increased dramatically. Many struggle to provide for their families as food and medicine become scarce. Below are the top 10 facts about poverty in Venezuela that are essential to know.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Venezuela

  1. Poverty in Venezuela is an epidemic. Nearly 90 percent of Venezuelans live in poverty. According to estimates by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, this is a dramatic increase from 2014 when 48 percent of Venezuelans lived in poverty. Maria Ponce is an investigator with the local universities researching the food shortage, and she stated that “this disparity between the rise in prices and the population’s salaries is so generalized that there is practically not a single Venezuelan who is not poor.”
  2. Economic statistics are disappearing. In an attempt to stifle economic outrage, the Venezuelan government ceased publication of poverty statistics in 2015. It is now the responsibility of universities and sociologists to report on the current state of Venezuela and provide alternative sources of information. Luis Pedro España, a sociologist at the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello in Caracas, estimates that up to 70 percent of households in Venezuela could fall below the poverty line this year. It would be the highest rate of poverty since statistic tracking began in 1980.
  3. Venezuela is experiencing ‘hyperinflation.’ Venezuela is experiencing one of the worst inflation rates in history. According to Robert Renhack, deputy director of the IMF’s Western Hemisphere Department, Venezuela “is one of the most severe hyperinflation situations that we’ve known about since the beginning of the 20th century.” And the nation shows no sign of stopping. Currently, Venezuela’s inflation rate sits at 27,364 percent, dooming those without savings or foreign aid to poverty.
  4. Oil industries in Venezuela are crumbling. Many economists blame Venezuela’s heavy reliance on oil exports for the poor economy. One of the world’s largest exporters for oil, Venezuela was reported to possess 20 percent of the world’s oil reserves in 2012. Since then, production of crude oil in Venezuela has dropped heavily. Global Data, a digital media company, has predicted that by the end of 2018, Venezuelan crude oil production would drop by one million barrels a day.
  5. Government corruption is deeply rooted. Other economists blame deep political corruption and government mismanagement for Venezuela’s poverty crisis. Despite months of protests, Maduro has recently cemented his power by replacing an opposition-controlled legislative branch of the government with loyalists. Since then, thousands of Venezuelans responsible for running the large oil exports have been fired or arrested in an act of power consolidation for Maduro. The White House has issued a statement reporting that President Trump refuses to speak to Maduro until “democracy is restored in that country.”
  6. Minimum wage in Venezuela is $6.13. In an attempt to control inflation, the minimum wage in Venezuela was recently raised 58 percent. Based on current exchange rates, this values at about $6.13. Yaimy Flores, a Caracas housewife, struggles to provide basic necessities for her family. Her household income, provided by her husband’s minimum wage job as a janitor, is 5,196,000 bolivares a month. That is approximately $20. Much of the food they eat is dispersed from government programs and hygiene products are rationed. Despite working long hours in dire conditions, Venezuelans are barely scraping by on the minimum wage under heavy economic inflation.
  7. Food crisis leads to “Maduro diet.” Malnutrition is spreading. According to a recent survey, over two-thirds of Venezuelans report losing an average of 25 pounds in the last year and 61.2 percent of Venezuelans report going to bed hungry. Doctor Marianella Herrera states that “people are developing strategies to survive but not to feed themselves.” Iron-rich foods, such as maize and vegetables, have been nearly eliminated from the Venezuelan diet while government food programs fail to end the hunger.
  8. Medicine is running out. Due to the poor economy, Venezuela is experiencing a severe medicine shortage and hospitals are struggling to stay open. The Pharmaceutical Federation of Venezuela estimates the country is experiencing an 85 percent shortage of medicine. This has forced many Venezuelans to seek medication, often expired or unaffordable, on the black market. Meanwhile, President Maduro continues to refuse foreign humanitarian aid, blocking pharmaceutical shipments from entering the country.
  9. Government food subsidies aren’t enough. Iron-rich foods, such as maize and vegetables, have been nearly eliminated from the Venezuelan diet, and programs like CLAP — a government subsidized food box platform — fail to end the hunger. Initially, these packages included products like eggs, chicken and pasta and were distributed in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. Originally a ‘temporary measure,’ these boxes have become a method to generate government dependency and supply nearly half of Venezuela’s food requirements.
  10. Venezuelans are fleeing the country. In the past two years, nearly one million Venezuelans have fled the struggling nation, one of the biggest migration crises in Latin American history after the mass exodus following Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution. Many Venezuelans report they no longer feel safe in their home country and have lost hope in government officials.

A Fork in the Road

Poverty has encapsulated the nation with seemingly no end in sight. These top 10 facts about poverty in Venezuela aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of the crisis in Venezuela and how it affects everything from inflation, to food and medicine.

Although the Venezuelan government still refuses to accept foreign aid, supporting local organizations in Venezuela allows for humanitarian aid to be distributed in poverty-stricken areas. As for the future, many Venezuelans envision only two possible directions: either Maduro leaves, or they do.

– Brooke Fowler

Photo: Flickr

Venezuela is currently in the midst of a humanitarian aid crisis spanning nearly ten years. As a developing country in South America, Venezuela has rich natural resources but suffers from an often harsh government that has not been cooperative with foreign NGOs in the past. Though NGOs operating in and outside of Venezuela are key to solving serious dilemmas in the areas of health, human trafficking, and education, the important thing in solving the crisis is an improvement of the strained relationship between the country’s government and foreign input.

The Crisis

The Venezuelan Crisis began in 2010 under the presidency of Hugo Chavez and has continued into the second six-year-term of current president Nicolas Maduro. The Venezuelan crisis has its roots in the country’s rich oil reserves, which under encouragement from Chavez (1999-2013), composed the majority of Venezuela’s earnings from exported goods.

Social programs were created with the influx of oil money, but when oil prices dropped in 2014 these programs were scaled back, and many Venezuelans began to struggle. Inflation has continued to rise steadily since 2012 and currently, Venezuela has the highest rate of inflation globally at 18,000% as of April 2018.

The political landscape of Venezuela has been tumultuous, yet ironically rigid in the transfer of power from Chavez to Maduro. Being hand-selected by Chavez to succeed him before his own passing, Maduro’s leadership has been marked with rumors of corruption, election fraud, and instances of police brutality against protestors and the unlawful imprisonment of political rivals.

As the government continues to deny foreign aid and refuses to allow foreign companies to invest in resident NGOs, the situation is becoming a humanitarian crisis worsened by the inability of aid organizations to alleviate the suffering of Venezuelan citizens. Despite these setbacks, multiple agencies are working hard to help the people living in Venezuela.

Due to extreme poverty caused by the Crisis, many Venezuelans are left vulnerable to human trafficking, an issue running rampant in this region of Central America. Those abducted are usually women and children, though men are taken as well. In often cases, the victims have moved from a rural area to an urban location, lured by the promise of higher earnings.

The Venezuelan government has done very little to eliminate this serious issue. The U.S. Department of Labor noted in 2017 that the Venezuelan government did not report any data whatsoever on human trafficking, and did little in the past year to combat the issue besides the arrest of seven individuals involved in human smuggling.

Venezuelans also face police brutality, lack of hospitals and medicine, and a nationwide shortage of food and clean water. As thousands of refugees pour out of the country, foreign NGOs are becoming more desperate to help. Some NGOs have banded together in order to fight the Crisis.

Strength in Numbers

The most significant humanitarian cooperative spearheading foreign relief efforts in Venezuela is Cuatro Por Venezuela, a Houston-based collective of 12 NGOs working together to fight the humanitarian aid crisis. The collective utilizes the resources of a vast web of partners and NGOs operating in Texas, Florida, and Chile.

By utilizing volunteers to deliver food, medicine, and other supplies, Cuatro Por Venezuela is able to work with NGOs in Venezuela to help them assist those in need. Though unable to fund resident NGOs, Cuatro Por Venezuela can still provide supplies and volunteers to Venezuela’s own humanitarian operations.  Cuatro Por Venezuela assisted nearly 100 humanitarian organizations and medical facilities for 14 states across the nation.

Though Venezuela’s government seems likely to deny foreign aid for the foreseeable future, the Venezuelan Crisis can still be alleviated by the collective efforts of NGOs in and outside this central American nation. Cuatro Por Venezuela represents the beneficial results produced when cooperation occurs between humanitarian groups.

– Jason Crosby
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Human Rights in VenezuelaOnce the richest country in South America, Venezuela has since been ridden with economic, socio-cultural and political turmoil. But there is hope, as the United Nations and its allies recognize the importance of salvaging the situation. Here are some important facts about human rights in Venezuela.

Facts About Human Rights in Venezuela

  1. Autocratic Rule
    The Venezuelan President, Nicolás Maduro, uses the Venezuelan security forces to maintain authoritarian control. It was reported by The Independent in April 2017 that the forces had detained 5,000 people. In the same month, the security forces were accountable for 46 of 124 reported deaths. Their other acts of violence include raiding houses and torturing innocent civilians and those detained.
  2. The Opposition
    To maintain an iron fist, the government has jailed several politicians on the grounds of acting as opposition. In 2017, more than 340 politicians were put in prison or brought for questioning by intelligence services. Several mayors were also subject to sentencing that did not comply with international procedure guidelines. Many leaders were also given prison sentences despite the lack of evidence supporting their charges.
  3. A Medical Crisis
    The circumstances have cost Venezuelans their right to quality health care. Currently, 85 percent of all medication is not available, and the political instability has led 13,000 doctors to flee the country. The prevalence of communicable diseases has greatly increased, as seen in the 69 percent rise in malaria cases between 2016 and 2017. However, the head of the WHO Global Malaria Program, Pedro Alonso, is devoting resources to rid Venezuela of malaria by working with regional bodies. The Venezuelan Health Minister, Luis Lopez, has also been key in implementing vaccination and fumigation programs.
  4. A Disproportionate Burden On Women
    Due to the heavy shortages, stores in Venezuela are missing menstrual hygiene products and birth control measures. The lack of contraception is especially alarming as Venezuela currently has the highest number of teen pregnancies in South America. Women resort to the black market to buy birth control pills or exchange basic food items like flour for pads and tampons. Fortunately, Girls Globe reports that social media has helped women gain greater access to these products.
  5. Consequences of Sanctions
    The United States, Canada and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Venezuela, making it harder for the nation to import essential medicines and nutrients. Although initially imposed to discourage human rights abuse and corruption, these sanctions have further locked Venezuela in a situation they cannot get out of, especially without external help.
  6. Social Unrest
    In light of the severe shortages and hyperinflation, Venezuelans have resorted to crime to make ends meet. In 2017, the murder rate reached a high of 89 deaths per 100,000 people. Moreover, close to 40 percent of residents have reported robberies in the past year alone. Venezuela currently has one of the highest crime rates in the world, which is yet another factor causing residents to migrate. However, there are several nonprofit organizations working in Venezuela’s major cities to deconstruct this image and promote revenue through tourism.
  7. Maternal and Infant Mortality
    In 2017, the Venezuelan health minister reported that in 2016, the maternal mortality rate had increased by 65 percent and infant mortality had increased by 30 percent. These alarming statistics can be attributed to the poor infrastructure offered by hospitals and the lack of sanitation and food. Cases of severe malnutrition also increased to 14.5 percent in September 2017 from 10.2 percent in February 2017, crossing the crisis threshold defined by WHO. These circumstances are undermining Venezuelans’ right to health and nutrition
  8. Freedom of Speech
    In Maduro’s quest to quell the opposition, several media agencies and sites have been suspended or disbanded altogether, and their journalists have been detained by security forces or had their equipment confiscated. International news agencies were also banned from entering Venezuela or detained for covering the local crises. This is in light of the Venezuelan government’s “Law Against Hatred,” which was passed in November 2017 and vaguely outlines the expected coverage content. The law even enforces a maximum jail sentence of 20 years for individuals and agencies that do not adhere.
  9. Displacement
    The lack of human rights in Venezuela has left almost 1.5 million Venezuelans seeking asylum or living as refugees in neighboring countries. Colombia, the largest of the neighbors, currently hosts more than 600,000 Venezuelans. However, in early 2018, Colombia discontinued temporary visas, making it extremely difficult for Venezuelans to find jobs and settle across the border and exacerbating the situation. However, organizations like Mercy Corps are helping Venezuelans make the best of the circumstances by protecting their human rights in Colombia as well as their home country.
  10. The U.N.’s Commitment
    In August 2017, the United Nations recognized the current state of Venezuelan politics as a violation of basic human rights and is looking to pursue charges against people at the highest levels of government. In May 2018, the United Nations Human Rights Council (OHCHR) also adopted a resolution acknowledging Venezuela’s position and declaring that the sanctions currently imposed on it do harm to the poor and the most vulnerable classes instead of serving their original purposes. With the WHO already involved in Venezuela’s malaria crisis and the OHCHR resolving to assuage these human rights violations, there is hope for collective action through the U.N.’s work.

Although Venezuela is going through a hard time, the work of non-profit organizations and allies of the U.N. has given the nation a fighting chance. With continued foreign aid, Venezuelans can expect to see better days.

– Sanjana Subramanian
Photo: Flickr