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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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