Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela
Venezuela is a Latin American country located in the northern region of South America. It has been under an oppressive regime since 1999. The country was once a prosperous oil-rich country. However, the past and present leadership of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro have led to economic collapse and horrible conditions that its citizens face every day. These conditions have caused 4.6 million Venezuelans to flee since 2016, accounting for 15% of the country’s current population. Here are five facts about the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

5 Facts About the Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela

  1. The ever-increasing hyperinflation of the country leaves its citizens with virtually worthless income. With a recorded inflation rate of 9586% in 2019, the income earned by Venezuelans can come out to be as little as $0.72 per workday. The bolivar currency that has been used for decades in the country has become almost useless since many goods and services are being charged in U.S. dollars at a regular U.S. price point. With an exchange rate of 1 VEF (Bolivar) to $0.10, something as simple as a pound of apples is now valued at $18. Buying food, hygienic supplies and clothing can now cost months’ worth of income for a household.
  2. Venezuelan women who try to find refuge in neighboring countries are often kidnapped and forced into sexual exploitation. There is a growing migration rate of Venezuelans to other countries to find better living conditions. Many of these migrants illegally cross the border, which makes them vulnerable to xenophobia and exploitation. Accounts of the prostitution of hundreds of young girls crossing borders by bus or foot at a time are common in the neighboring country of Colombia. Migrating Venezuelan women face other dangers as well. From January to August 2019 alone, 27 Venezuelan women were killed in Colombia. The majority of the incidents were related to sexual violence.
  3. Basic goods in supermarkets are extremely scarce, expensive and require waiting in line for hours. With prices already soaring and taking up most of the income of Venezuelans, there is a dangerous scarcity of basic items such as toothpaste and drinking water. Families line up outside of supermarkets the night before or stand in long lines of up to four hours in hopes of food being available. The scarcity of virtually every product including basic medicine and hospital equipment has increased the maternal mortality rate by 65%. The infant mortality rate also increased by 30% in recent years.
  4. There are frequent power outages, which lead to higher water insecurity. Like the scarcity of basic items, utilities such as running water and electricity have suffered a shortage in Venezuela. The electricity blackouts cause water shortages that can last up to two weeks. As a result, citizens are forced to use contaminated water. This in turn arises concerns of infections and diseases such as Hepatitis A and typhoid fever. In March 2019, many areas in the country went 10 days without electricity. Notably, on March 25, 14 of Venezuela’s 23 states experienced a complete outage. During this time, men, women, children and newborns had to resort to showering with sewage water or dirty water collected during rainfall.
  5. The autocratic president, Nicolas Maduro, tampers with elections and throws political opponents in prison. The party and president in power hold full responsibility for the situation in the nation. The rigged election process keeps them in power, in spite of the crisis. In the last elections of 2018, bribery with nation benefit cards and other forms of aids were used to get the president re-elected. Supporting an opposing leader or party is becoming harder since the Maduro regime has arrested more than 12,800 people linked to anti-government protests and beliefs. Notably, Leopoldo López was held under house arrest for almost four years after calling people to the street to protest the government.

Who is Helping?

Several organizations have taken the initiative to combat the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. One of these organizations is the South American Initiative, which has been using monetary donations to feed starving children and adults, helping approximately 23,500 people. The initiative also supports Venezuelan refugees in camps in the nation and neighboring countries, providing almost 71,000 meals. The organization has raised $48,903 for aid.

The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela has been ongoing for over 20 years. Scarcity, inflation, corrupt leadership and refugee exploitation are some of the many problems the nation faces. Thankfully, there are efforts from organizations to help relieve Venezuelan citizens. However, much more needs to be done before the crisis can be completely eradicated.

Veronica Spinelli
Photo: Flickr

Politics in Venezuela
Venezuela is the most poverty-stricken country in Latin America. The nation’s position in poverty has led to Venezuelan citizens requiring aid from the United States, more so than any nation in Latin America. Some argue that poverty in Venezuela is mainly due to the politics in Venezuela. Notably, the politics within the country receive influence from both inside and outside parties. Below is an introduction to how the politics of Venezuela has influenced these seven facts about poverty in Venezuela.

7 Facts About Poverty in Venezuela

  1. The average person living in Venezuela lives on 72 cents per day.
  2. Inflation has decreased the value of the Venezuelan currency.
  3. Although it is rich in oil, it does not export enough of it to boost its economy.
  4. The U.S. has placed sanctions on Venezuelan trade, further accentuating poverty in Venezuela.
  5. Almost 5 million people have immigrated from Venezuela in the past 5 years because of the extreme poverty levels there.
  6. “Multidimensional poverty” affects 64.8% of homes in Venezuela (“multidimensional poverty” includes aspects of poverty other than just income).
  7. The income poverty rate is at 96%.

How Politics in Venezuela Plays a Role in Poverty

The President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, has not allowed Venezuelans to receive aid from the U.S. The U.S. does not recognize Maduro as the legitimate president and that makes it much more difficult for Venezuelans to receive the aid that they desperately need. Also, Maduro has control over the country’s military. Therefore, people do not have much of a choice, but to follow him or to risk their lives.

Maduro has denied the U.S.’s foreign aid so that it does not go to the people suffering from poverty in Venezuela. He does not want to lose his power and if the aid is given to the people that oppose him, it could give them an edge that they need to overthrow him. Additionally, he mistrusts the U.S. because of incidents in the past. Maduro (and others) suspect that USAID worked alongside companies in the U.S. to cause a coup in Cuba. All of this was said to be under the guise of foreign aid.

A Hopeful Newcomer

Enter a new player — Juan Guaido. Guaido was elected by the National Assembly as president because Nicolás Maduro unconstitutionally kept the power of the presidency after his term was over. The U.S. officially recognizes Guaido as the president of Venezuela, even though he has no real power yet. Also, only around 20% of Venezuelan citizens approve of Maduro. He is a ruthless leader who allows for the occurrence of violence within his country.

Moving Forward in the Wake of COVID-19

Countries in Asia, such as Russia and China, are backing Maduro. However, the European Union is about to follow suit with many other nations and recognize Guaido as the President of Venezuela. The current state of the world has not helped any country, Venezuela is no exception. The country was already in crisis before the pandemic and now COVID-19 has made it even harder for them to get back on their feet.

With that said, hope is not lost. If there is any country with the capabilities to find a way to get the people of Venezuela what they need to survive, it is the U.S. The pandemic has caused people to take a hard look at the world around them and re-analyze many decisions. People all over are rising to the challenge and the Venezuelan crisis should be no different.

Moriah Thomas
Photo: Pixbay

COVID-19 and the Venezuelan crisisOf all households in Venezuela, 35% depend on financial support from family members working overseas. According to local economic researcher Asdrúbal Oliveros, remittances to Venezuela will suffer a heavy blow as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its severe effect on the global economy. With an estimated $2 billion decrease in remittances, the health of millions of Venezuelans is in serious danger due to the combined effects of COVID-19 and the Venezuelan Crisis.

The World Bank believes the pandemic will cause a 20% decrease in global remittances, the biggest drop in recent years. With 90% of citizens in Venezuela living in poverty, the drastic fall in remittances and oil prices spell trouble for countless people. Furthermore, the unprepared Venezuelan healthcare system has struggled to control the pandemic.

Despite numerous U.N. groups imploring for money-transfer businesses to make international transfers cheaper, Venezuela’s foreign exchange policy and volatile economic system are difficult to reform. “Venezuelan remitters” are instead left using unnecessarily complex methods to send money back home.

The Venezuelan Government Under Nicolás Maduro

In 2019, the Venezuelan government politicized humanitarian aid when it vilified the U.S. government’s foreign aid as the beginning stage of a U.S. invasion. However, the government has finally acknowledged the long-denied humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. President Nicolas Maduro has accepted the deliverance of aid after negotiations with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Subsequently, the United Nations declared it was increasing its efforts to aid Venezuela.

Despite the progress made, politics continue to negatively affect potential aid. According to Miguel Pizarro, a U.N. Representative, the political influence leaves many without fundamental necessities. Pizarro explains, “If you demonstrate and raise your voice and go to the streets, you do not have food, medicine, water or domestic gas.” Pizarro continues, “Eighty percent of Venezuelan households are supplied with gas by the state. If you become active in the political arena, they take away that right.”

Sharp declines in oil value, numerous embargoes globally and negligent economic policy largely caused the humanitarian emergency in Venezuela. Since 2014, the nation’s GDP has fallen by 88%, with overall inflation rates in the millions. A 2019 paper published by economic researchers at the Center for Economic and Policy Research attributed medicine, food and general supply deficits in 2018 to the deaths of at least 40,000. According to findings from the Coalition of Organizations for the Right to Health and Life, a scarcity in medicine puts over 300,000 Venezuelans in peril.

Dr. Julio Castro, director of Doctors for Health in Venezuela, says “People don’t have money to live. I think it’s probably a worst-case scenario for people in Venezuela.” Despite recent increases in aid and medicine from U.N. operations and the IFRC, the Venezuelan struggle persists.

Venezuelan Healthcare Amid COVID-19

Most of the Venezuelan population can only afford to receive aid from public hospitals. These public hospitals often experience persistent deficits in necessary supplies. A study conducted by Doctors for Health indicated that 60% of public facilities frequently face power outages and water shortages.

In response to this, the Venezuelan government authorized $20 million in healthcare aid, which will be administered by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), a territorial agency of the World Health Organization. They will use the capital to develop COVID-19 testing and to obtain personal protective equipment (Ex: masks, gloves, etc).

According to Luis Francisco Cabezas of local healthcare nonprofit Convite, a recent study identified a worrisome struggle. Data indicated that roughly six in 10 people had reported trouble obtaining medication for chronic illnesses. The problem has only worsened since the pandemic.

Local Nonprofits Redirect Efforts Toward Venezuelan Crisis

Numerous nonprofits in the country have responded to COVID-19 and the ongoing Venezuelan crisis by shifting their efforts. A director for Caritas, a Catholic charity, says the ongoing economic disaster compelled his organization to prioritize humanitarian work over its original mission of civil rights advocacy.

Similarly, Robert Patiño leads a nonprofit civil rights group, Mi Convive, which shifted to humanitarian work in 2016. Since its inception, the organization has directed its efforts to child nutrition. Through the group Alimenta La Solidaridad, Mi Convive has opened over 50 community kitchens in Venezuela, feeding over 4,000 kids weekly.

Although the efforts by Venezuelan nonprofits have aided thousands, it is not enough. COVID-19 and the Venezuelan crisis need to be in worldwide focus until the government can reliably provide for its citizens. The work of numerous good samaritans can only reach so many people, and their work is constantly hindered by “Chavistas,” a group of Venezuelans who are loyal to President Nicolas Maduro’s government. Mi Convive’s Robert Patiño claims the radicals have been known to go as far as withholding food boxes from areas where the nonprofit is trying to begin new programs. The humanitarian emergency in Venezuela must be appropriately addressed, for the livelihood of millions of people are at stake.

Carlos Williams
Photo: Flickr

Colombian agribusiness
As of June 2019, approximately 4 million Venezuelan refugees had fled their home country in search of shelter from the “State-Sponsored Terror” of dictator Nicolás Maduro; by the end of 2020, this number could increase to as many as 8.2 million total Venezuelans seeking refuge. Already, around 1.7 million Venezuelan refugees have sought shelter in neighboring Colombia, creating an overwhelming demand for food and other supplies in regions closest to the Colombia-Venezuela border. In response to this emerging humanitarian crisis, a Colombian agribusiness has found an innovative solution that ensures Venezuelan refugees receive food and humane treatment while also helping struggling local economies. What exactly is this solution? The agribusiness of imperfect potatoes.

Agribusiness In Motion

The Colombian agribusiness company Acceso works to revitalize the economy of a nation whose rural poverty rate is 35%. Acceso’s success derives from its business model, which links rural farmers to urban marketplaces and provides a variety of resources to farmers–from startup cost aid to seed access–to ensure that they turn a profit.

Essentially, Acceso acts as a middleman between small Colombian farms and larger stores. Acceso buys crops in bulk from small Colombian farmers in order to resell them in commercial marketplaces. However, in doing so, Acceso often ends up purchasing products like “imperfect looking but edible potatoes.” Despite their imperfections, these potatoes hold the key to the success of Acceso’s entire operation.

Crops that are too small or have visual defects like scratches are still nutritious and viable; their defects, though merely visual, impair the ability of farms and Colombian agribusiness firms to sell them in commercial marketplaces. For the small farmer, growing imperfect crops elicits a loss of money. In normal farmer-market relationships, imperfect crops either have to be sold by small farmers in local markets for a lower price or they go to waste.

Because Acceso buys all of a farm’s crops regardless of their condition, they assure that farmers are adequately compensated for all of the crops they grow. An Acceso partnership can increase the revenue of an individual farm by as much as 50%. It maximizes the profit of small farms because Acceso pays more than normal consumers would for every piece of produce grown, enriching every sector of Colombia’s farming industry and helping stabilize the economy of rural Colombia.

Colombia’s agricultural GDP has increased by 1,502 billion Colombian pesos (about $400 million) since late 2019. An increase of this quantity illuminates how the growth of Colombian agribusiness keeps small farmers from falling into poverty, rewards them for their hard work and expands the Colombian economy.

Kitchens Without Food

In 2017, 8 out of 10 Venezuelans reported having a reduced caloric intake due to a lack of food at home, and around one-third of Venezuelans eat less than three meals each day. This explains why many Venezuelan refugees in Colombia–especially children–come across the border severely undernourished.

As they cross the border into Colombia, these refugees–some of whom have only eaten salted rice for an extended period of time–need nutrition urgently. This creates immense demand for food in border cities like Cúcuta, which have seen a massive influx of Venezuelan refugees. The Colombian government has partnered with NGO’s to establish relief kitchens on the border such as Nueva Ilusión in Cúcuta in order to meet the nutritional and humanitarian needs of Venezuelan refugees.

Unfortunately, these border kitchens still struggle to find adequate funding. International relief aid for the Venezuelan refugee crisis has only totaled $580 million, a number woefully short of the amount needed to ensure humane treatment for all refugees entering Colombia. To remedy this, the Colombian government has launched over $230 million in credit lines to invest in border cities with high numbers of refugees.

Albeit, even an amount that large might be insufficient to meet the needs of the incoming refugees. Many border kitchens providing nutritious meals to Venezuelan refugees lack the appropriate financial resources to provide enough of it.

Supply? Demand.

Each organization mentioned thus far faces an issue. Acceso has acquired imperfect crops that they cannot sell. Border kitchens lack funding and need nutritious foods to turn into meals for Venezuelan refugees.

This is where supply meets demand.

Recognizing the gravity of the malnutrition crisis among Venezuelan refugees in Colombia, Acceso partnered with border kitchens like Nueva Ilusión to give Venezuelan refugees the dignified treatment they deserve.

Instead of throwing away the imperfect crops that they cannot sell, Acceso now donates these crops to border kitchens. As of March 2020, the Colombian agribusiness contributed over 480 metric tons of fruits and vegetables to border kitchens, making 4.3 million nutritious meals.

On a daily basis, the products donated by Acceso are made into around 2,000 meals per day per kitchen, 600 of which are served to malnourished children fleeing from Venezuela. By donating food to meet the demand of border kitchens, Acceso has helped make progress towards alleviating the nutritional crisis that plagues Venezuelan refugees both young and old.

With their agribusiness, Acceso links the needs of two impoverished groups in Colombia and assures that their needs are met with reciprocal flourishing. In conjunction with both the farmers and kitchens, Acceso confers economic benefits to small Colombian farms while also ensuring that border kitchens have enough food supplies to provide refugees.

Acceso’s work linking the needs of small Colombian farmers and Venezuelan refugees has helped to fill the gap in relief created by a lack of funding for humanitarian aid efforts in this region. Its successes with rural farmers and malnourished Venezuelan refugees have shown how the most impactful relief can often be found in the most dignified mediums of exchange.

Nolan McMahon
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Venezuela
Having access to menstrual products is essential to a woman’s life. Lacking these products can interrupt women’s daily schedules, including their education and work. As Venezuela’s economy declines, many Venezuelan women are unable to afford feminine products. Period poverty in Venezuela is now a challenge that women must overcome by creating alternative menstrual products.

Venezuela’s Inflation Crisis

Two decades ago, Venezuela took pride in being Latin America’s richest economy, boasting the world’s largest oil reserves. However, the past two governments’ corruption, mismanagement and debts have led Venezuela’s economy to fall apart, causing many companies to stop working and leading to hyperinflation and shortages of many products and basic services.

Feminine hygiene products did not escape this economic crisis. Today, these products are so expensive that many women cannot afford them. Two packs of pads can consume up to a third of a women’s minimum salary, according to a 2018 source. Plafam, an association for family planning in Venezuela, stated that 90% of medicine and healthcare products are in shortage. Many women cannot afford to spend their salary on menstrual products when they also need to buy other essentials. Forced to choose between food or tampons, many women are looking for other affordable options.

Creative Solutions to Period Poverty

In an interview with Voice of America, a young woman named Desiree Rodriguez said that instead of pads, she uses pieces cut from old sheets of cotton and plastic bags. Other women are using similar methods to tackle period poverty in Venezuela. Raquel Pérez said that she can buy either pads for herself or diapers for her children; she chooses to buy diapers and handcraft her own pads.

VICE interviewed women in Venezuela who invented similar ways to deal with menstruation. America Villegas, a past vice-chancellor of the National Experimental University of the Arts, is making her own pads. In 2016, Villegas decided to quit using the low-quality pads that were — and still are — flowing on the market. “They gave me horrible irritation and allergies,” Villegas said.

With her teenage daughter and mother, Villegas began creating ecological pads made of fabric, cotton and plastic, which she sells through MercadoLibre, an online marketplace. Her pads are washable and reusable. Despite a myth that reusable pads are bad for women’s health, according to Women’s Health Magazine, they are safe if cleaned correctly. However, many Venezuelan families lack access to clean water, soap or detergent.

Lahaie Luna Lezama

Three young women decided to tackle period poverty in Venezuela in another way. In 2018, Marianne Lahaie Luna, Véronique Lahaie Luna and Rosana Lezama founded Lahaie Luna Lezama, an NGO dedicated to improving access to menstrual products and rights in Venezuela.

These women partnered with Plafam to distribute an alternative to pads: the menstrual cup. Because of taboo and myths around menstruation in Venezuela, most women are disinclined to use tampons or products like a menstrual cup. But with proper education about women’s health and the sustainable use of menstrual cups — which women can use for up to seven years — women in Venezuela are now using these products as another solution to period poverty.

In 2019, Lahaie Luna Lezama started collaborating with a Colombian organization called CEPAZ, reaching out to Venezuelan women who migrated to Colombia. Because of their uncertain legal status, these women are prone to sexual exploitation and solicitation, lower-wage jobs and poverty. Lahaie Luna Lezama distributed around 400 menstrual and sexual kits to these women, as well as many women in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas.

Conclusion

Period Poverty in Venezuela causes a great deal of distress. The government has not adequately addressed the importance of menstrual and sexual products. The lack of these products obstructs Venezuelan women’s education and work. Innovative women are introducing creative, handcrafted and sustainable solutions to period poverty in Venezuela, but widespread change is necessary to improve the lives of women who cannot afford traditional menstrual products.

Alannys Milano
Photo: Flickr

venezuelan crisisVenezuela is currently facing a political and economic crisis. Along with severe economic factors such as food shortages, lowered oil production and inflation, there are also two men who claim to be president. Socialist leader Nicolás Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó both claim to be president after widely recognized fraudulent elections in 2018. While Venezuela struggles with choosing its president, the country is falling apart. Thankfully, one NGO is working to help people impacted by the Venezuelan crisis.

A Political Crisis

The 2018 election caused confusion and turmoil in Venezuela. Nicolás Maduro was elected after the death of his socialist predecessor, Hugo Chávez. Many Venezuelans blamed Maduro for the struggling economy since he was first elected in April 2013. To ensure his reelection in 2018, Maduro’s administration blocked many opposition party members from running against him. Some went to jail or into exile. The opposition as well as the people regarded the election as fraudulent and rigged.

After the election, the National Assembly claimed that the presidency was void. National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó appointed himself acting president. In response, Maduro created a new National Constituent Assembly with only government loyalists as members. The military and police still support president Maduro and continue to do so as he grants them raises and grants top members important roles in the economy. However, around 50 countries, including the U.S., recognize Guaidó as the acting president.

Economic Crises

Throughout the history of Venezuela, oil production has been central in the economy.  Oil exports make up 95% of Venezuela’s export revenue and 50% of its GDP. However, within the past two decades, oil production has steadily dropped. Venezuela’s GDP decreased by double digits for the third year in a row in 2018, reaching its new low. This has led to hyperinflation, which is now more than 80,000% annually. Many people blame Maduro for the drop in production due to his appointment of inexperienced leaders and his lack of investment in the industry. Importantly, the drop in oil production has led to decreased funding for education, infrastructure and medical care. Along with hyperinflation, these factors have created hardship for the working class.

Not only did oil production drop during Maduro’s first term, but he also tried to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor by capping prices on goods to make them more affordable to the working class. This policy backfired, as many companies ceased production because of lack of profit. This resulted in food and goods shortages across the country, leading to 3.7 million Venezuelans being undernourished. As a result of this and the lack of adequate healthcare, water and education, many Venezuelans are fleeing the country. According to the U.N., 3.9 million people have left Venezuela to seek a better life.

Helping Those Impacted by the Venezuelan Crisis

The South American Initiative, founded in 2016, is a NGO addressing the Venezuelan crisis. It helps by providing resources for the impoverished and starving people of Venezuela. This initiative has held major campaigns, such as the “Help Venezuelan Orphans” and “Help Hospitals and Children” campaigns. In all, it has helped more than 10,000 people. In order to provide a stable and lasting food source for hospitals and children, the South American Initiative has invested in large agricultural development. This has allowed the organization to distribute 70,786 meals to people in need. The South American Initiative has also utilized donations to provide medicine to those who need it in Venezuela.

The Venezuelan crisis is not only an economic issue but also a humanitarian issue, as people face unlivable conditions. Neither Venezuelan leader has the means to provide for people’s healthcare, food, water and education. This makes the work of organizations like the South American Initiative central in addressing the needs of those affected by the Venezuelan crisis.

– Samira Akbary
Photo: Flickr

Code for VenezuelaAmid the outbreak of intense political, economic and humanitarian crises in Venezuela, one group of Silicon Valley-based Venezuelan expatriates came together to create the nonprofit Code for Venezuela. This organization looks to funnel Venezuelan expatriates’ professional skills and talent back into the country, helping from abroad to solve the challenges facing Venezuela. With team members in design, art, marketing and technology, the organization codes and creates bots, engines and other tech-based interfaces. They are created to tackle issues in Venezuela while connecting Venezuelan professionals around the globe through the organization’s projects.

About the Organization

Code for Venezuela collects essential information and provides it to those who need it. Among this organization’s projects is Angostura. This is a platform for collecting, sharing and analyzing data with NGOs. It also does this with other organizations combatting the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. The organization designs and provides messenger-app based bots, google forms, and other types of user-friendly and easily-accessible surveys for organizations looking to generate data on the ground. Additionally, the service organizes and stores the data for future use. Simultaneously, they also offering analytics to demonstrate trends in the data. This assures that organizations that need the information can access a clear picture of the data whenever needed.

Medicine to Electricity

From medicine to electricity, Code for Venezuela works to track and solve shortages. An additional project belonging to the organization is a blackout tracker, which collects incident reports of power shortages, documents the reports and maps out the extent of the blackout. Additionally, the service also helps the organization tackle the issue of accessibility to its digitally-based services.

Another project of the organization is MediTweet, a Twitter bot that connects Venezuelans in need of certain medicines with those who possess and can distribute it. Beyond their own work, the organization connects with and supports other expatriate efforts. For example, the organization came in contact with Dr. Julio Castro. He is an organizer of Medicos por la Salud, a group that collects data points in Venezuela’s health system. Upon contacting him, the organization created a system of crowd-sourcing from Twitter to help collect more robust data for Medicos pro la Salud.

Bringing Back the Talent

Looking further into the future, Code for Venezuela aims to funnel professional skill back into Venezuela and foster upcoming talent. Nearly 10% of Venezuela’s population has relocated in recent years as a product of the ongoing economic and political crisis in the country. For the young tech-based professionals behind the nonprofit organization, one of its central goals is to ultimately use the knowledge and experience gained abroad to help foster local skills and talent within Venezuela itself. Additionally, the organization uses its base in technology to connect expatriates in other fields and industries to organizations on the grounds of Venezuela. This provides other organizations with the necessary technological tools to communicate and pursue projects in Venezuela.

More Action

Code for Venezuela is tackling the pressing fight of containing COVID-19. As Latin America became one of the fastest-growing regions for COVID-19 cases, The organization created a message-app based chatbot to help citizens assess their own potential illness. The chatbot would also help compensate for low levels of testing in Venezuela. Users can text an algorithm-based chatbot for a “virtual checkup” where the user is asked questions about symptoms and exposure. This eventually gives the user a possible diagnosis. Although not a proper medical diagnosis, the chatbot aims to provide further information to civilians. It also helps to slow the spread of the disease. To the users that prove to have a “medium” or “high” risk, the chatbot recommends seeking medical treatment. In addition to helping individuals, the chatbot collects data and can help to illuminate trends in the outbreak within Venezuela.

 

Alexandra Black

Photo: Flickr

Charitable MLB Players The athletes playing in Major League Baseball (MLB) are utilizing their fame and athletic talents to help those in need around the world. Some of these players grew up in countries with extreme poverty. Baseball was used as a means to find a better life and return to help their home countries with charities and relief efforts. Others have visited poverty-stricken countries and chose to make a difference in unique ways to increase poverty awareness. Here are three charitable MLB players who are giving back.

Baseball Players Giving Back Around the World

Pedro Martinez – Dominican Republic

Considered one of the greatest pitchers of all time, Pedro Martinez was a dominant force on the mound throughout his 17-year Hall of Fame MLB career, which included a World Series win with the 2004 Boston Red Sox. Born in the Dominican Republic, Martinez saw first-hand the poverty that gripped his home country as he trained for life in baseball. When the coronavirus hit his home country, he took action and led the way with his organization, the Pedro Martinez Foundation, along with 40 other Dominican born MLB players. The group created a fund that has raised more than $550,000 for the relief efforts. This will pay for 5,000 food kits that last a total of two weeks each. It also will provide thirty-two thousand medical masks for doctors and nurses, 110,000 masks for citizens and 7,700 protective suits for medical personnel.

Dee Gordon- Rwanda

During a baseball game, Dee Gordon is best known for stealing bases. Throughout his decade-long career, he has stolen 330 bases, the most of any player in a 10-year period. The Seattle Mariners 2nd baseman has been using his talent for stealing bases to help increase poverty awareness to the hunger issues in the Ruhango district of Rwanda. Gordon has been associated with organizations such as Food for the Hungry, Strike Out Poverty and the Big League Impact Foundation for several years in order to help feed people in the Central African nation since 2019. As a charitable MLB player, every time he steals a base during a game there is a donation that he personally gives of $100 that goes toward one of these organizations to help feed the people of the Ruhango district. He has raised over $47,000 over the years to help impoverished nations all over the world including Rwanda. 

Carlos Carrasco- Venezuela

In 2019, Carlos Carrasco received the Roberto Clemente Award for his efforts in helping out his community in his home country of Venezuela and around the world. The Roberto Clemente Award is given out once a year to the MLB player that shows extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contribution, both on and off the field. Carrasco, a 33-year-old pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, has been donating money and supplies to help those in Venezuela suffering from the current economic crisis that has gripped the nation for years. In 2019 he donated $300,000 to Casa Venezuela Cucuta, an organization out of Columbia that helps recent Venezuelan migrants fleeing the crisis. Carrasco has also sent toys, medical supplies and baseball equipment to the children living in Venezuela. 

These three charitable MLB players show their dedication to increasing poverty awareness in countries that need it most. Through baseball, they have found fame and fortune. With that success, they have given back to communities all over the world by giving their time, money and efforts in creating a life for those without. 

Sam Bostwick
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Venezuela
Venezuela was once a rich and stable country. Over the last few decades, Venezuela has fallen into financial and governmental trouble. In 1989, when rioting and looting polluted the streets due to increased petroleum prices, Venezuela began a spiral into debt. When Hugo Chávez became president in 1998, citizens became optimistic as he funded money into programs to assist the poor. Unfortunately, mismanagement allowed problems to persist. Within the last decade, poverty rates have risen dramatically. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Venezuela.

10 Facts About Poverty in Venezuela

  1. The economy has created a nationwide crisis. As Venezuela’s economy collapses many programs are collapsing with it. The country is experiencing hyperinflation. Over the past three years, the annual inflation rate is 10,398%. Hyperinflation in Venezuela has increased the number of people living in severe poverty and barely surviving from day to day. A national survey in 2017 found that 87% of families live below the poverty line.
  2. The government retains full control of the economy. Since 1989, the Venezuelan government has retained full control of the economy. In 2003, the government introduced price and currency controls and it became the sole provider of bolivars. As a result, funds denied businesses access and banks could only assist specific organizations. Additionally, companies had to sell products below production costs and close stores, which caused a supply shortage and negatively affected the economy.
  3. Government information is experiencing censorship. Journalists, lawyers and medical professionals experienced detainment and imprisonment for exposing the poor conditions of their country. Although the poverty Venezuelans face is no secret, censorship hides the depths of the governmental and economic corruption, thus reducing the level of support that other countries offer. Venezuela ranked 173 out of 180 countries that Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index assessed for corruption. The lower the ranking, the more corruption in the government.
  4. Venezuela is experiencing a split government. In May 2018, Nicolás Maduro, the incumbent president of Venezuela, “won” a disputed re-election against Juan Guaidó, leader of the National Assembly. By the following June, the Organization of American States recognized Guaidó as President; Guaidó subsequently declared himself president on January 23, 2019. Blame for the free-fall of the economy lands on Maduro, but he holds all the military and refuses to relinquish power. Recognized by 50 other countries, Guaidó does not hold much authority on his own. As more becomes clear about the corruption that Venezuela experiences, Guaidó receives more assistance from other countries to help his people.
  5. Food and water shortages are at an all-time high. Since 2017, nearly two-thirds of Venezuelans reported losing an average of 25 pounds in the previous year; they refer to this as the “Maduro-diet” due to food and water shortages. These shortages have peaked with the COVID-19 emergency. Venezuela has 4,187 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 35 confirmed COVID-19 deaths. PAHO and UNICEF have provided relief by supplying medical equipment and COVID-19 tests and the U.N. has since stepped in to provide funds. When the global pandemic began, hospitals quickly found it difficult to care for patients while lacking running water. Additionally, sanctions that the U.S. put into place made access to food more difficult.
  6. Venezuela is experiencing medical shortages. Fernando Gomez is a 54-year-old man living in Venezuela. In an interview with The New Humanitarian Gomez said, “The government says wear masks, wash your hands often, and stay inside… but we don’t have water, we often don’t have electricity, and there are no masks.” Even before the pandemic, diseases such as measles, diphtheria and malaria rose. While there are proven vaccines and antibiotics for these diseases, shortages have led to high mortality rates from these illnesses. In the last five years, there also have been significant shortages of medical personnel and supplies, leaving Venezuela’s population at greater risk. PAHO, UNICEF and the U.N. are doing what they can to assist.
  7. Venezuela’s oil industry is collapsing. Petroleum was once a significant part of the Venezuelan economy; now it suffers from oil shortages at great cost to its people. Marcia Briggs, a reporter for Pulitzercenter.org, spent a day at a local Venezuelan gas station. The line stretched for miles and people would wait a day or more for fuel. Spending time in line means not working and earning wages. In 1998, the country produced 3.5 million barrels of oil a day but in 2002, when Petróleos De Venezuela went on strike against Chávez, he fired 19,000 workers. Since 2007, production has decreased dramatically and reached an all-time low in 2019.
  8. Although the minimum wage in Venezuela increased in 2020, it remains below a survivable level. In January 2020, Maduro increased the minimum wage from 300,000 bolivars an hour to 450,000 per hour; the equivalent of $5.45. In April of 2020, Maduro decided to increase the wage again by 77.7%. The minimum wage currently sits at 800,000 bolivars ($4.60). It is “only enough to buy just over a kilo of beef.” As the minimum wage continues increasing, there is hope that it will soon reach a survivable level.
  9. Venezuela experiences a lack of education. The education system has lost thousands of teachers due to underfunding. Some children are so malnourished that they lack the necessary energy to attend school. Other families lack the funds to pay for transportation to classes. U.N. experts say that an uneducated future will do nothing but perpetuate the crisis the country faces. Education is free, although finding enough people to direct the students’ education is a problem with no current solution.
  10. Venezuelans continue to flee their country. All of these problems have led to Venezuelans fleeing the country in hopes of a better future. There have been roughly 5 million migrants from Venezuela. Fleeing the country gives the migrants a better chance at survival but worsens the situation in their home country. Essential jobs that lack workers now have even fewer available people. Citizens who remain in Venezuela say they no longer feel safe in their country and they have lost all hope and trust in officials to fix the crisis.

Although poverty, corruption and violence have been the narrative of Venezuela for the last few decades, there is still hope that the tide will turn. In the time of a government battle, citizens now have more than two options. It used to be Maduro leaves or they do, but now there is a third option which is change with President Guaidó.

Fortunately, there are many groups assisting with child security, food and water relief, education and poverty in Venezuela. These continued efforts will hopefully impact poverty in Venezuela significantly.

Marlee Ingram
Photo: Flickr

Gender Inequality in VenezuelaIn Venezuela, like other conservative countries, women have often been viewed as the weaker sex, creating vast gender inequalities. In the past few decades, the country has faced severe political turmoil. Women have shouldered the brunt of the force. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the extent of gender inequality in Venezuela, as women must rely on their partners for financial support – those same partners from whom many women face domestic violence. Thankfully, there are many resources for Venezuelan women to turn to, including the Women’s Development Bank, abbreviated Banmujer. It is the only state-owned women’s bank in the world. Here are six ways that Banmujer is addressing gender inequality in Venezuela.

Six Ways Banmujer is Aiding Women

  1. For women, by women – The Venezuelan Women’s Development Bank was created in 2001 to help empower women by ensuring financial stability independent from their partners. Banmujer supports female entrepreneurs by only providing loans to women, promoting financial independence, creativity and innovation. In addition, the organization employs women who travel to rural communities to develop female-led business proposals. This would be instead of having regional offices. This makes it extremely easy for women all over the country to apply for a loan.
  2. More than just a bank – Not only does the bank provide loans, but it also provides training and education to women. The organization teaches women how to develop an entrepreneurial idea, efficiently use the loan and manage a business. Extending their efforts even further, the bank hosts workshops on women’s health, prevention of domestic violence, community leadership, legal advice and more.
  3. Real and long-lasting change – The bank is fighting gender inequality in Venezuela by offering small loans to groups of women with business ideas. Banmujer has also trained over 100,000 women. Many women have benefited from these small loans and each story is unique. The Guardian highlights one such success story. Matild Calixte used to work at a hair salon earning well below the price of a haircut. She even had to take on a second job to provide for her family. With the help of the Women’s Development Bank, Calixte was able to open her own hair salon and equally split the income with the other hairstylists. Because of this, she has achieved financial stability and can now afford to send her daughter to college.
  4. Making it easy – Most of the world’s property owners are men. It is easier for men to be approved for loans – they have collateral to secure them. When the idea of a women’s bank was proposed by Nora Castañeda, Banmujer’s original president, she made it a priority to allow women with no financial assets to be included in the loans. This alone is absolutely revolutionary in the gender equality movement. In addition, when women successfully pay back their loans, they can take out another loan worth one and a half times their previous one. Monthly interest rates are also fixed at a low rate of 1% which makes getting a loan even more attainable.
  5. Creating a caring economy – The Women’s Development Bank doesn’t solely measure success by financial profits, but societal ones. While there has been criticism of high default rates in the bank’s earlier years, it should not be defined in purely economic terms. Banmujer focuses on the progress being made to address gender inequality in Venezuela. Castañeda explains that “we are creating…an economy at the service of human beings, not human beings at the service of the economy.” The bank cares more about helping Venezuelan women than it does about making a profit.
  6. Helpful for the whole economy – Banmujer recognizes that fighting gender inequality in Venezuela by empowering women means reducing poverty. Close to 45% of Venezuelans live in poverty, and 70% of those are women. However, the loans have created over 70,000 jobs. By empowering women to reach financial independence, it stimulates the economy.
Banmujer has had an incredible influence on more than 100,000 women, effectively addressing gender inequality in Venezuela. By giving small loans, the program encourages entrepreneurial ideas and financial independence. The aim for the loans is to spur collaboration between women, not competition. The president of the bank made sure to focus program efforts on lifting women out of poverty and empowering them to start their own businesses.

– Karin Filipova
Photo: Banmujer CA