Helping Venezuelan Refugees
Colombia is helping Venezuelan refugees following instability in Venezuela. Colombia has received over one million Venezuelan refugees and the Colombia-Venezuela border has been relatively porous. These Venezuelans are escaping hunger, hyperinflation and generally poor living standards while Colombia faces many problems of its own.

Background

Colombia and its people, although needing humanitarian aid for their own country, have continued to allow Venezuelans to come in. Colombia far surpasses other countries as the number one receiver of Venezuelan refugees. The government provides them services in refugee camps such as orthodontic treatment, legal assistance, psychological guidance, haircuts, manicures and food. This has been described by various Venezeulen refugees to be beneficial. However, there are concerns that Colombia might not sufficiently meet the demands for this new mass influx of people considering its existing problems with its own people.

Colombia today sees high rates of terrorism and crime, from dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and groups like The National Liberation Army (ELN). Armed robberies are also common there, and Colombia’s social systems and law enforcement have failed to address this issue. This results in events like a car bomb incident in January 2019 in Bogota which killed 22 people and injured 66 more, a bomb in January 2018 when a bomb exploded in front of a police station in Barranquilla, a bomb in June 2017 when three people were killed in a shopping mall and an incident in 2018 where two Ecuadorian journalists and their driver were killed along the Colombia-Ecuador border. The U.S. State Department rates Colombia with a Level 3: Reconsider Travel rating, citing these issues as well as health concerns from COVID-19.

Current Sources of to Help

Despite this news, there are things people can do to aid in helping Venezuelan refugees. The USAID program in the country is one example of helping Venezuelan refugees and aiding Colombia’s effort for this task. USAID has provided ventilators as well as $30 million of aid to Colombia amid the COVID-19 pandemic and humanitarian aid after Hurricane Iota struck the region in November 2020. But most of all, it is the Colombian people who are helping Venezuelan refugees.

At border towns, people have taken Venezuelan refugees into their homes, often indefinitely at no cost at all. In the 1980s and 1990s, Colombia was experiencing a decade-long conflict with FARC. This destructive conflict displaced more than seven million people, and groups of Colombians migrated to the then prosperous Venezuela. The Venezuelans during this conflict took Colombians in the same way as Colombians are taking in Venezuelans now. The Colombian border state of La Guajira is the perfect example of this, as over 160,000 Venezuelan refugees have taken refuge in La Guajira. Venezuelans now make up one-fifth of the population. The selfless help from local Colombians has made a difference in helping Venezuelan refugees.

Aid outside the Colombian government does a lot in helping Venezuelan refugees. This is true whether it goes directly to the local people or arrives through sources like USAID. The intertwining between Venezuelans and Colombians, promoted by Venezuelan refugee events hosted by Colombians before COVID-19, can also help alleviate anti-Venezuelan sentiment and provide the region more stability.

Justin Chan
Photo: Flickr

Vital Relief to VenezuelaThe country of Venezuela has an economy that is extremely reliant on its oil sales. About 99% of its exports come from the sale of oil. The natural resource also takes up a quarter of Venezuela’s GDP. Such high reliance on this resource has caused the country economic hardship in recent years. The GDP of the nation shrank by two-thirds between 2014 and 2019. The struggling economy has been devastating for the citizens of Venezuela. It has caused five million Venezuelans to leave the country and flee to neighboring ones. As of 2020, 96% of Venezuela’s population live in poverty when measured solely according to income levels. Despite the dire situation in Venezuela, countries and organizations are trying to deliver vital relief to Venezuela.

USAID’s Assistance

USAID is working on behalf of the United States to provide aid that Venezuelans so desperately need.USAID has provided more than $1 billion in humanitarian aid to vulnerable Venezuelan communities. The monetary aid is used by NGOs and organizations to assist the Venezuelan people. The assistance these groups provide includes food, health and sanitation supplies. The COVID-19 pandemic that has swept across the world has worsened the situation for many Venezuelans. On top of the severe economic situation, Venezuelans are now dealing with the impact of a pandemic a well. USAID has adapted its efforts to help Venezuelans during COVID-19. The funding of USAID has allowed affiliated partners to provide important healthcare assistance for the delivery of vital relief to Venezuela.

The European Union Helps Venezuela

The European Union (EU) has been active in providing support for Venezuela in these trying times. Since 2018, the European Union has provided a total of €156 million to not only Venezuela but to the neighboring countries that Venezuelans have fled to. Similar to the way aid from USAID is carried out, the EU’s funding goes to partners that then use it to help the Venezuelan people. The partners of the EU include multiple U.N. agencies, international NGOs and the Red Cross. The partners of the EU provide the same type of assistance the USAID’s partners do. However, the EU notes that much of the supplies go to groups that are especially at risk. These groups include children that are under the age of 5, the elderly and the indigenous people of Venezuela. The EU also provided enough aid for 500,000 Venezuelan people in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The monetary support of the EU continues to help in providing vital relief to Venezuela.

NGOs Assisting Venezuela

Other small NGOs in Venezuela are trying to provide help to Venezuelans as well. Fundación Madre Luisa Casar, for example, has secured multiple donations to provide support to the Jenaro Aguirre Elorriaga School that is located in the slum called Barrio 24 de Marzo. Its goal is to make sure that the children are provided the education and human rights they need.

Hogar Bambi Venezuela also helps children under 18 who are unable to live with their families due to abuse, mistreatment or economic difficulties. These two NGOs are just a few of many that are making vital relief in Venezuela possible.

With all the humanitarian aid coming in to provide vital relief to Venezuela, it is hopeful that the country will soon be on its way to recovery.

– Jacob. E. Lee
>Photo: Flickr

Electricity in VenezuelaOn March 7, 2019, Venezuela entered the worst power outage in the country’s history. Plunging all 23 states into darkness, the blackout lasted over five days in majority of the country. The economic losses triggered by this event exceeded $800 million and led to the deaths of an estimated 46 people. Electricity in Venezuela has since become a huge cause of concern for people.

Blackouts in Venezuela

Regrettably, this blackout was not an isolated incident, although it was the longest. Blackouts have become a routine aspect of Venezuelan life, dating back to as early as 2010. In a country where 96% of the Venezuelan population lives in poverty, these blackouts serve only to exacerbate the struggles of a vulnerable population. They strip people of access to basic necessities like water, food and fuel. Their root causes are often unclear although the key contributing factors are widely agreed-upon.

Understanding the Power System

In 2007, Venezuela’s private power companies were nationalized and transformed into one state-run monopoly known as Corpoelec. The company is underfunded, rife with corruption and unable to recover its own operating costs. The factors creating this untenable situation for Corpoelec date back even further to 2002 when national electricity rates were frozen. In Venezuela, “consumers pay only 20% of the real costs of producing power, delivering Venezuelans the lowest electricity prices in Latin America.” The drawback to these low rates is that energy is extremely overused and that Corpoelec is unable to generate sufficient revenue to fund infrastructure investments or even basic maintenance of its facilities.

Overdependence on Hydropower

The aforementioned problems are exacerbated by Venezuela’s near-complete reliance on hydropower from just one dam. The Guri Dam located in the eastern state of Bolívar accounts for 80% of the country’s electricity production and its systems are woefully neglected. The dam currently operates at a capacity considered unsustainable, “jeopardizing the machine room in the case of a flood,” according to experts. In a region where flooding is common, this is cause for concern.

Whereas other countries that rely heavily on hydroelectric power like Brazil and China have made large investments into other forms of energy, Venezuela’s ability to shift away from hydropower is crippled by underfunding, a lack of engineering power from within the country and corruption.

Corpoelec has stagnated progress as well. The company, “paid millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to political connections,” to maintain its dominance. Projects to build new dams and other forms of electricity production like thermal or wind have routinely been stalled due to a lack of funding and inadequate staffing.

The Cause of the Blackout

The March 7 blackout that heavily circulated the news was caused by a system failure at the Guri Dam. It was initially painted as a terrorist attack by president Nicolás Maduro, who tweeted, “The electrical war announced and directed by the imperialist United States against our people will be defeated.”

The Venezuelan president’s claim was that the U.S. had caused the power outage through a cyberattack on the hydroelectric plant. However, engineers who worked on the dam later clarified that the plant’s electronic monitoring system is not actually connected to the internet, proving a foreign attack to be an unlikely root cause. The plant has been poorly maintained and neglected for a very long time. In actuality, failure to properly manage the electricity grid may have caused a fire has been deemed the likely cause, and unfortunately, there is no quick-response system in place at the facility to protect its systems from damage.

The Future of Electricity in Venezuela

To ensure the return of consistent electricity to the people of Venezuela and protect against future blackouts, massive overhauls would be beneficial. However, such agendas seem unrealistic given the current economic and political climate in the country. Rather, a focus on increased upkeep and basic maintenance of power plants offers a more realistic path forward. This requires access for NGOs to bring in engineers and consistent revenue toward infrastructure repair. Without this basic funding and commitment from the government, the Venezuelan people will continue to suffer through blackouts.

– Scott Mistler-Ferguson
Photo: Flickr

Saving the Venezuelan EconomyA combination of poor leadership and crippling sanctions have created a nation-wide economic crisis in Venezuela. The Center for Strategic and International Studies found that even before U.S. sanctions were placed on Venezuela, the country was already enduring hyperinflation, had seen food imports fall by 71% and more than two million Venezuelans had fled the country. Nevertheless, sanctions only exacerbated the crisis as Torino Economics found U.S. sanctions on Venezuela were associated with an annual loss of $16.9 billion in oil revenue. As a result, the Atlantic Council reports that more than 80% of Venezuelan households are food insecure and 3.7 million individuals are malnourished. Consequently, refugees filed more asylum claims globally in 2018 than any other country has. The number of Venezuelan migrants and refugees is expected to reach eight million in 2020, surpassing Syrian migration by more than three million. Reforms in the county are being implemented with the aim of saving the Venezuelan economy.

Saving the Venezuelan Economy

While this economic collapse still ravishes the country, there is certainly hope for the future. Due to both internal and external pressures, the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, has begun to encourage policies of economic liberalization and privatization that are indicating an economic rebound.

Toward the end of 2019, Argus Media reported the Venezuelan government was beginning to ease economic controls. Specifically, the Maduro government erased most price controls, loosened capital controls, tightened controls on commercial bank loan operations, and most importantly, began to accept informal dollarization. Immediately these policies curbed the levels of hyperinflation that had caused the food crisis across the country. Advisers estimate inflation to be at only 5,500%, a significant improvement compared to the International Monetary Fund forecasts that predicted inflation levels of more than 10 million percent. This is largely in part to the importation of dollars into the Venezuelan economy, pushing out the uselessly-inflated Bolivars. Indeed, a Bloomberg study found Venezuela’s economy is increasingly dollarized, as 54% of all sales in Venezuela by the end of last year were in dollars. Most importantly, food and medicine imports have rebounded, now reaching 15% of the population.

Privatization of the Oil Industry

In addition to the Maduro government relaxing economic controls, the economic rebound in Venezuela has occurred due to increased privatization of the oil industry. Despite being under the control of the military for years, Venezuela’s state-owned oil company has trended toward letting private firms handle operations, aiding in fixing the mismanagement perpetrated by the military’s control of the industry. For the first time in decades, the private sector accounted for more than 25% of GDP in 2019 and likely more by the end of 2020. Consequently, the Panam Post reported that oil production increased by more than 200,000 barrels, a 20% increase following privatization.

Initiatives to Help Venezuelans in Poverty

The South American Initiative, through its medical clinic, provides medical care and medicine to Venezuelans in need, with a special focus on mothers and children. To provide these essential services, it relies on donations that people provide on the GlobalGiving platform.

Fundacion Oportunidad y Futuro addresses hunger and malnutrition with regards to children in Venezuela. It is running in an initiative to provide meals to 800 school-aged children in Venezuela. It also operates through donations via the GlobalGiving platform.

The Future of Venezuela

While there is hope to be found in these reforms, Venezuela has far from recovered. The National Survey of Living Conditions indicates that more Venezuelans are in poverty in 2020 than in 2018, with food security decreasing another 7% over the past two years. The average income of Venezuela remains low at just over 70 U.S. cents a day. These reforms are the foundational steps needed to begin to reverse the economic trend that has relegated millions of Venezuelans to extreme poverty. If the economy is ever to correct itself, liberalization and privatization will be the jumping-off point for an economically thriving Venezuela in the future.

– Kendall Carll
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Venezuela
Poverty in Venezuela has reached a historic high during the current crisis. Researchers from one of Venezuela’s top universities found this year that about 96% of the population lives in poverty, while 70% live in extreme poverty.  This makes Venezuela the poorest country in the region. With a vast majority of the country living below the poverty line, child poverty in Venezuela is a growing concern.

Child Poverty in Venezuela

Children are often the most vulnerable to poverty. The extent of child poverty cannot be measured through family income alone; the entire context of their living conditions must be evaluated. UNICEF has developed a tool to assess more accurately how children are impacted in settings of poverty through a process called Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis (MODA).

MODA has a defined list of indicators that researchers use to evaluate child poverty in each country. Indicators change based on which are the most relevant to that particular country. Indicator categories include water, sanitation, housing, nutrition, education, child labor and more.

The challenge with analyzing the full extent of child poverty in Venezuela is the lack of reliable information available to researchers. The Maduro regime has continuously hidden figures from international databases to hide the full extent of the Venezuelan crisis. Nevertheless, researchers are examining child poverty with the broad indicators of the MODA tool. Besides low income, hyperinflation and national shortages of foods and products, water and power are two of the main factors causing multidimensional child poverty in Venezuela.

Water

Venezuelans have suffered shrinking access to water. According to a study by nonprofit Venezuelan Observatory of Public Services, 86% of Venezuelans do not have reliable access to water. The same study found that 11% do not have access to a water service at all.

In addition to being crucial for adequate hydration, water is also essential for sanitation. Without access to running water, personal hygiene and health suffer. In 2020, water became even more important to protect from COVID-19. Using the MODA tool, not having access to showers/baths, a protected water source, or a place for handwashing are indications of multidimensional child poverty in Venezuela.

Power

Power outages are becoming more common in Venezuela due to the ongoing crisis. Gas-powered backup generators are available for those who can afford them; for those who cannot, wood and charcoal become imperative for cooking and heating.

Without power, there is also no internet. The internet has been particularly important in 2020, as many children are now attending school online. A lack of access to power has thus affected children’s ability to attend school, furthering the education gap between the rich and the poor. According to MODA, a lack of access to electricity and the internet are indicators of multidimensional child poverty in Venezuela.

Save the Children

In response to the situation, there are many groups looking to help Venezuelan children. The nonprofit Save the Children is one of these groups. In its mission, the organization recognizes the need for clean water, personal safety and access to education.

While the nonprofit does not have access to Venezuela, they have set up centers in Colombia and Peru for families that have been forced to migrate. Entrance into Venezuela remains difficult, as its leader, Nicholas Maduro, is against humanitarian aid. In an attempt to help Venezuelans in need, humanitarian organizations were leaving relief trucks on the Venezuelan-Colombian border, but Maduro rejected this help.

Moving Forward

Whether or not international humanitarian organizations will be able to effectively address child hunger within Venezuela in the coming years remains to be seen. Nevertheless, the existence of such programs is paramount to those Venezuelans seeking relief from the oppressive conditions in the crisis. And, until the government situation changes, programs like Save the Children may be the only way to help ease child poverty in Venezuela.

Luis Gonzalez Kompalic
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Inflation
Inflation refers to an increase in the prices of goods and services. Poverty and inflation have a close relationship in that a country with high inflation is likely to have high poverty rates as well. An inflation rate measures how much the prices of goods and services change over a year. Many countries struggle with high inflation rates. Most countries have experienced high inflation at some point in history. The U.S., for example, has maintained an inflation rate of around 0%-3% for over a decade. During World War I, however, the U.S. reached an inflation rate of nearly 20%. Today, some countries have negative inflation rates while others have inflation rates over 100%.

Highest Inflation Rates in the World

As of August 2020, the 10 highest inflation rates in the world ranked as follows:

  1. Venezuela – 2,030%
  2. Zimbabwe – 747%
  3. Lebanon – 388%
  4. Syria – 275%
  5. Sudan – 127%
  6. Iran – 99%
  7. Argentina – 66%
  8. Libya – 47%
  9. Brazil – 40%
  10. Turkmenistan – 35%

*There are varying estimates between experts, as inflation can be difficult to measure at higher rates.

Consequences of High Inflation

Dr. Prince Ellis, a professor of economics at the University of Cincinnati, spoke with The Borgen Project about the relationship between poverty and inflation. He explained that Zimbabwe and Venezuela have some of the highest inflation rates in the world. “These are two extremes,” he notes. “The price of goods and services can increase almost about 200% a day.” He used the example of a gallon of milk. If the milk is $2 one day, the very next day, the same gallon could be $6.

Dr. Ellis shared his own experience with inflation in Ghana, where he grew up. “I remember my mom had a store, like a convenience store at my house… And we used to sell general convenience items – bread, rice and milk and stuff like that… We are changing prices each week… She goes to the wholesaler… They change the price [of the goods] like price goes up by 20%. We have to also change it by 20%.” Unsurprisingly, this upsets consumers. Consumers may go to the market expecting an item to cost the same as it did last week. Of course, this is not the case, and they may find themselves suddenly unable to afford the item.

Causes of Inflation

Economists use the term aggregate demand to describe the total amount of demand in an economy. Sometimes the aggregate demand in a country increases too quickly for the country’s production. Because there is so much demand for goods and a scarcity of goods, prices increase. This type of inflation is called demand-pull inflation. Demand-pull inflation is often the result of central banks rapidly increasing the money supply.

Another type of inflation is cost-push inflation. This type of inflation comes from a decrease in aggregate supply. The term aggregate supply describes the total amount of goods or services that people are selling in an economy. When the cost of inputs (resources a producer uses to create the final product they sell) or wages increase rapidly, cost-push inflation may occur. This type of inflation was occurring in Dr. Ellis’s anecdote about his mom’s store. Dr. Ellis said that this type of inflation is common in developing countries because “they rely too much on international markets.” In fact, countries overseas import most of the resources developing countries use for production. If a spike in the prices of international goods occurs, a developing country that relies on the goods will experience a severe drop in aggregate supply.

How Inflation Contributes to Poverty

Poverty and inflation have a connection due to the fact that money has value, and its value can grow or diminish. Poverty is a lack of financial resources, leading to an inability to afford basic needs. In other words, as the cost of basic needs increases, the amount of financial resources necessary to afford those needs also increases. Dr. Ellis described this concept as “purchasing power.” He explained how increasing costs lead to decreasing purchasing power. If a person’s income level does not increase at as high a rate as the inflation increases, they will become poorer.

Poverty and Inflation Inequality

One of the issues regarding poverty and inflation is that high inflation has a disproportionately large negative effect on those struggling with poverty. Inflation inequality describes the disparities between the effects inflation has on middle and upper-class people and lower-class people. There are multiple reasons why inflation affects people with lower incomes more than those with higher incomes. One of the main reasons has to do with the types of jobs these two types of people have. Lower-income people often don’t have much opportunity to negotiate their wages. When prices rise, wages for these individuals tend to stay stagnant for a while. Consequently, their purchasing power plummets. Higher-income people, on the other hand, tend to have jobs with inflation-adjusted benefits. When inflation occurs, these benefits limit the decrease in the individuals’ purchasing powers. This disparity is why during inflationary periods, income gaps widen.

Lessening the Effects of Inflation

There are two important ways entities can decrease the negative effects of inflation.

  1. Using another country’s currency – In countries with extremely high inflation rates, the currency practically loses all value. “What happened to Zimbabwe, for instance, is that the currency is now useless. Now, they are using what the U.S. currency is,” Dr. Ellis explained. Using a foreign currency is a temporary fix. Since different countries have different economic systems and ways that they operate, this method fails to be effective long term.
  2. Inflation-adjusted payments – Dr. Ellis also pointed out that sometimes government payments, like Social Security, undergo adjustment for inflation. Many employers also adjust wages based on inflation. These policies do not decrease inflation, but they increase the amount of money people have, increasing their purchasing power.

Permanent solutions to high inflation require drastic changes to fiscal and monetary policy. Political instability, dependence on foreign nations and unpopular side effects are some of the many reasons countries struggle to curb inflation. However, nations can recover from hyperinflation. One of the most well-known examples of this is Germany after World War I. For 16 months, Germany’s prices quadrupled every month. Now, Germany maintains a yearly inflation rate of just under 2%.

– Jillian Reese
Photo: Flickr

Rappi: The Colombian Unicorn that Has Given Venezuelans a ChanceThe socio-economic and political crisis in Venezuela has forced millions of citizens to flee the country in pursuit of better opportunities. In fact, there are approximately 4.5 million Venezuelans abroad. Almost 1.8 million are in the neighboring country of Colombia. This migratory movement has generated a demand for blue-collar jobs. Rappi, the Colombian unicorn, has become a very important niche for migrant labor. It allows them to start over and overcome their poor economic and social condition.

Rappi is an innovative App that works as a large shopping center in which the customer gets all kinds of products. The product quickly arrives at the customer’s location. This business model requires thousands of office employees as well as shoppers and distributors. While many of the Venezuelans that enter neighboring countries only have a high school diploma, Rappi has opportunities for them. The Venezuelans can provide for their families with only a bike and a smartphone.

The Presence of Venezuelans in Rappi

With only five years in the market, Rappi has seen a constant 20% growth every month. This reaches thousands across 9 countries in Latin America. This rapid increase has been directly correlated to the massive emigration of people. Today, 57% of Rappi’s distributors, or better known as rappitenderos, are Venezuelans. This is because Rappi only requires the special permit acquired with the traditional migratory process and no previous working reference.

Many studies have shown that Venezuelans in Rappi work considerably more hours and days by choice in comparison to Colombians. Rappi provides a flexible model in which distributors accommodate the hours they work according to their necessities and availability. The Venezuelan rappitenderos work around 10 to 12 hours a day, while Colombian rappitenderos work approximately 8 hours. Moreover, 97% of Venezuelans work up to 7 days a week while only 5% of Colombians work 6 days. 

Rappi has helped Venezuelans find a job in which they can provide for their families. It also has looked for other ways to help their families. Rappi has partnered with Valiu, a Colombo-Venezuelan startup. This collaboration helps the rappitenderos send money to their relatives that live in Venezuela and struggle with poverty. This partnership has created better alternatives for distributors to manage their income and help their families.

The Impact

Rappi is the first fully Colombian, and one of the most important, tech firms in Latin America. It is the perfect innovation that has eased people’s lives, changed consumption habits and helped small businesses thrive. More than anything, it has allowed thousands of Venezuelans that have been looking for a better quality of life. It has become a means to reduce poverty and close the gaps of inequality.

The startup was born with the mission to make people’s lives easier. It extended its main goal to a community that today calls for help and needs to generate extra income for their personal and professional goals. Additionally, Venezuelan migrants contribute to the national economy of Colombia. Despite challenges and migratory processes, they have found their way and Rappi has been the dominant employer for this strong workforce.

Isabella León Graticola
Photo: Pixabay

USAID in Venezuela, Strengthening Local EconomiesUSAID in Venezuela aims to be a catalyst for the international response to aid impoverished communities in Venezuela. It provides more than $200 million to diminish the humanitarian crisis triggered by Nicolás Maduro’s regime. Eradicating poverty is not only a national but an international affair. The decline of democracy in Venezuela can also be seen as a consequence of the increase in national poverty. As such, USAID in Venezuela is also a matter of national security and economic stability.

United States’ Response to the Crisis

According to the Department of State, the United States is the largest donor responding to the Venezuelan crisis, with over $856 million in total assistance. However, helping does not only mean providing aid for Venezuelans living in their country. The United States also offers support for those who fled to nearby countries. The aid covers 16 Latin American nations, such as Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina and Chile.

What USAID Covers in Venezuela

  1. Food: Hot meals and water.
  2. Sanitation: The organization provides hygiene and health for the affected population.
  3. Temporary shelter
  4. Educational services
  5. Protection for vulnerable children

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, USAID began to prioritize life-saving humanitarian assistance in Venezuela. This includes basic healthcare, providing access to medicine and supplies, training healthcare workers and combating other infectious diseases like Malaria.

USAID in Venezuela, Strengthening National Security and Economy

In Maduro’s regime, U.S. efforts to sustain the Venezuelan people externalize a political decision to disapprove Maduro’s resolutions as a leader.

“We do this because our National Security Strategy prioritizes the reduction of human suffering and doing our part to respond to crisis situations make Americans safer at home,” argues the U.S. Department of State. Moreover, foreign aid triggers a better political understanding between nations.

On the other hand, a lack of governance and extreme poverty create economic conflict between countries. In January 2021, Maduro announced that the country had received 98.6% less income than 2013, the year that he took office. As unemployment and hunger grew, other nations imposed sanctions on Maduro’s government. The latter has had a domino effect on Americans as the Venezuelan government was unable to pay their debts to Americans who invested in foreign debt.

Foreign aid is not merely an external investment but a strategic and mutually beneficial deal. Nations all over the world depend on each other to safeguard their people’s basic needs. When a nation suffers, the global community is affected. By strengthening local economies, USAID in Venezuela steadily continues to alleviate poverty and protect vulnerable groups.

– Paola Arriaza Avilés
Photo: Flickr

Alimenta la SolidaridadVenezuela has a convoluted political, economic and social situation. The present humanitarian crisis in Venezuela has placed the country in fourth for the largest food crisis in the world. The nonprofit organization  Alimenta la Solidaridad (Feed Solidarity) chooses to tackle this issue head-on.

The Situation in Venezuela

According to the World Food Program, one in every three Venezuelans require food assistance. Venezuela’s deteriorating situation has decreased the household’s access to food as well as the purchasing power of the people. In 2019, an estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans suffered from food insecurity and approximately 9.3 million required immediate food assistance.

The current food dilemma is expected to worsen due to the current economic crisis. Already, the plight has increased childhood malnutrition and starvation. Children in Venezuela rarely obtain vital nutrients for proper growth and adequate cognitive development.

A Nonprofit to the Rescue

Alimenta la Solidaridad was determined to combat the rampant food insecurity in Venezuela. Since 2016, it has provided around 7,508,000 meals to Venezuelan children in need. The program started mainly in Distrito Capital, the capital’s state, but it has gradually expanded nationwide. It now operates in 14 additional states, has a total of 188 dining rooms across the national territory and gives food assistance to over 14,000 children.

The nonprofit recognizes the necessity to contribute their part to society. Alimenta la Solidaridad aims to find sustainable solutions to the food-related challenges that plague many low-income Venezuelan families. This organization works exhaustively to soften the effect of the nutritional deficiencies that many children in this program possess.

How Alimenta la Solidaridad Works

Alimenta la Solidaridad operates through donors with the help of mothers and fathers from the communities. The nonprofit gathers people willing to share their home to provide the space for community kitchens. Volunteers cook, organize the children, clean and manage the daily operations of this effort. The organization is “more than a plate of food.” When people with Alimenta la Solidaridad get together, they create a place of transformation.  Sometimes, they create activities that turn into opportunities for the development and empowerment of children. Mothers in the program also receive growth opportunities.

Alimenta la Solidaridad provides training courses that will empower the mothers. The new skills are then put right back into the organization. These mothers often end up taking one of the most important roles within the organization. They don’t only make the initiative possible, they also teach the children to grow in the values of co-responsibility, involvement and service.

Alimenta la Solidaridad aids the outside communities as well. The initiative contributes to the reduction of criminal indexes within the surrounding areas. Further, the organization promotes community organizations and volunteer work. They uplift these avenues of aid as a way to fulfill their mission of providing daily meals to children with food insecurity in Venezuela.

Hope for the Fight

Despite the painful reality in Venezuela, many efforts across the territory keep trying to find ways to help. Alimenta la Solidaridad is the perfect example of an organization that managed to provide aid despite the bleak circumstances. The nonprofit’s dedication and goodwill has developed a model based on responsibility and empowerment. This method boosts the sense of involvement and amount of voluntary service within Venezuelan communities in need. Food insecurity has met its match with the hopeful spirit of the resilient Venezuelan people.

Isabella León Graticola
Photo: Pixabay

BetterTogether ChallengeSince 2015, roughly five million people have left Venezuela in hopes of finding a better life. This marks the largest displacement of people in the history of the Western Hemisphere. Its economic collapse has rendered the local currency practically worthless and thrown Venezuelans into rampant poverty and hunger. The average Venezuelan lost about 25 pounds of weight in 2017 when 80% of the population lacked reliable access to food. The BetterTogether Challenge aims to support struggling Venezuelans.

The Collapse of the Venezuelan economy

Despite having one of the largest oil reserves in the world, the Venezuelan government’s mismanagement of its resources and economy led to a cataclysmic collapse. When measured by income, 96% of Venezuelans live in poverty and the average citizen lives off a paltry 72 cents a day. The 2019-2020 National Survey of Living Conditions found that 65% of Venezuelans live in multidimensional poverty, an increase of 13% from the previous year. Multidimensional poverty incorporates measurements such as access to health care and education, in addition to income.

A Mass Exodus of Venezuelans

The abject poverty Venezuelans have experienced has led to mass emigration to neighboring countries. Colombia and Peru collectively have had over two million Venezuelan immigrants. The integration of Venezuelans and their culture has been abrasive in countries such as Peru, where negative attitudes persist toward Venezuelans.

The displacement of millions of Venezuelans has disrupted a highly educated generation. A whole 57% of Venezuelans living in Peru have received higher education and roughly 25% have university degrees.

While negative views of Venezuelan immigration have limited the number of incoming Venezuelans, neighboring countries would be wise to recognize the inherent value possessed by the Venezuelan people. The displaced Venezuelans carry massive potential, which if properly harnessed, can have a substantial impact on local economies and innovation. Furthermore, the integration of Venezuelans into the labor markets of their host communities would provide additional cash flow that could boost local economies.

BetterTogether Challenge Empowers Venezuelan Innovation

As a strong and steady champion against poverty, USAID has partnered with the InterAmerican Development Bank to create the BetterTogether Challenge to support Venezuelans. The goal of the challenge is to fund innovative solutions from Venezuelans to support their resilience, test solutions to be integrated and promote communication between Venezuelans and their new communities. In August 2020, the BetterTogether Challenge Award winners in South American countries were collectively awarded $2.97 million.

The BetterTogether Challenge awardees are focused on increasing social cohesion, fighting xenophobia, empowering women, improving employment opportunities and improving access to health care, education and food. These solutions are crucial to rebuilding Venezuela and reducing poverty in their communities.

International Rescue Committee in Colombia

One of the most impactful organizations chosen for funding was the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Colombia. Nearly 1.5 million Venezuelans have found refuge in Colombia, with roughly 35,000 crossing into Colombia daily to purchase supplies. The IRC supports Venezuelans in Colombia by providing safety, access to healthcare and economic assistance while protecting the women and children that may be disproportionately vulnerable. A key initiative launched by the IRC is the Families Make A Difference Program, which provides essential management and support to children who have been harmed and educates families to prevent harm.

Supporting organizations such as the IRC are vital for fortifying Venezuelan resilience and providing people with life-changing resources during times of need. Furthermore, initiatives like the BetterTogether Challenge empower Venezuelans while addressing poverty.

– Adrian Rufo
Photo: Flickr