Elderly Poverty in VenezuelaCurrently, almost 90% of Venezuelans more than the age of 60 are living below the world poverty line. While economic hardship is a widespread issue amongst all of the nation’s demographics, elderly poverty in Venezuela is a disproportionate problem. 

Underlying Causes and Exacerbating Factors

Since 2014, Venezuela has faced massive economic decline due to political corruption and fossil fuel reliance, yielding devastating effects on the nation’s elderly population. Over the past decade, Venezuela’s currency, the bolivar, has experienced an estimated 1 million percent inflation rate, making it increasingly difficult for Venezuelans to afford the goods and services necessary for survival, such as food and health care. 

These levels of inflation led to a mass exodus of more than 7 million Venezuelans – approximately 20% of the nation’s population – out of the country in search of better economic conditions and employment opportunities. As the majority of people fleeing the country were of working age, this left many seniors who decided to stay without younger relatives to care for them as they age. 

Although Venezuelans who are 65 and older have been following their families out of the country at increasing rates within the past few years, there are still plenty of elderly adults who are too weak to make the journey beyond the nation’s borders. For the senior citizens who remain in Venezuela, life is challenging, as the government lacks adequate policies and funding to care for its aging citizens.

The Current Situation

Like many nations, Venezuela maintains a government-funded old-age pension program that provides elderly individuals with a source of income after they retire from the workforce. Yet, the monthly pension that the government offers to elderly Venezuelans is essentially impossible to survive on, with each check equating to around $2.40. This $2.40 per month has already been adjusted to factor in the nation’s current inflation rate, with seniors having received less than $1 per month before May 2021. This meager monthly pension has forced many elderly Venezuelans to continue working in spite of their increasing age, and in many cases for elderly individuals who are too weak or too sick to work, to sell their possessions or beg on the streets. 

As of 2020, three in five Venezuelan seniors report going to bed hungry, and a shocking 95% of Venezuelan seniors report not having enough food on a daily basis. The Venezuelan government does have subsidized funds for community-based food distribution systems throughout the country known as Local Committees for Supply and Production. However, the food provided by these committees is generally not nutritionally dense and arrives sporadically for elderly individuals who are unable to leave the house and require their food to be delivered. 

Aside from food insecurity, there are also many obstacles preventing adequate health care for elderly Venezuelans including inflated prices and shortages of vital medications. Approximately 84% of Venezuelan seniors suffer from a chronic illness that requires medication, yet 75% of these seniors say that they are unable to access the medications or medical care that they need.   

Ongoing Efforts to Help Venezuela’s Elderly?

The European Commission has played a significant role in providing humanitarian aid to Venezuelans and has particularly focused on reaching the country’s most vulnerable populations including young children, pregnant women and the elderly. Since 2016, the European Commission has provided Venezuela with approximately  390 million of humanitarian aid,  75 million of which has been allocated throughout 2023. Improving food security, access to medical care and access to clean water are the top priorities for the European Commission’s work in Venezuela, and the organization continues to use its funds to provide Venezuela’s most vulnerable with critical medications, water purification equipment and nutrient-dense foods. 

Working specifically for Venezuela’s elderly is Help Age International, a non-governmental organization whose goal is to “improve the lives of older [individuals] in low-and middle-income countries” through advocacy and research, as well as direct humanitarian aid initiatives. In 2016, Help Age International formed a partnership with the Venezuelan humanitarian organization Convite in order to raise international awareness about the hardships affecting the elderly in Venezuela and to “deploy a humanitarian action program for distributing medicines” necessary to the health of seniors.

Moving Forward

Since Venezuela’s drastic economic decline, humanitarian aid organizations have provided extensive support in keeping the country’s population afloat. Fortunately as of 2021, the Venezuelan economy has begun to rebound and is now on a long, but hopeful track toward full revitalization. However, elderly poverty in Venezuela still remains a somewhat silent, and demographically disproportionate problem that continues to call for attention.  

– Reagan McDaniel
Photo: Flickr

The UK StrikesRecent unrest amongst various public-sector industries in the U.K. has ballooned amid rising inflation and stagnating wages. The ongoing U.K. strikes appear to be a result of these issues, and to an extent, present a picture of the situations abroad and the need for aid.

Record Strike Action in Over 30 Years

Strikes seem to have almost become part of normal life in the U.K., with sectors engaging in industrial action ranging from public transportation to education, post services and health care. February’s strike of ambulance staff, nurses and physiotherapists marked the National Health Service’s most dramatic strike since its beginning 75 years ago. Yet, there is still no lasting solution in sight. Insufficient pay is the biggest reason for those taking part in strikes, as public-sector wages have not kept up with record-high inflation, which makes disposable income much tighter for those who work for government-controlled entities.

A Global Crisis

The ongoing cost of living crisis in the U.K., including sharp increases in the price of energy bills and food now at a 45-year high, is causing a lot of unrest within the country, but these problems are not unique to the developed world. If communities in one of the world’s wealthiest countries are struggling, it points to the harshness of the situation for those in low-and-middle-income countries. Inflation has been surging abroad also and is more likely to have devastating effects on communities that were struggling to attain basic life necessities before the price hikes. The U.N. estimated in the summer of 2022 that the increase in costs of food and energy will plunge an additional 71 million people into poverty, with forecasts suggesting that Sub-Saharan Africa and the Balkans could be two of the worst-affected regions.

The Bleak Situation Abroad

In 2022, strikes in developing countries’ health sectors were also widespread, including in Zimbabwe, where the government passed a controversial bill limiting workers’ ability to strike in 2023. Poor pay and working conditions were the underlying reasons for the strikes, with similar situations in Asian countries such as Sri Lanka where poverty levels continue to increase.

Why Maintaining Aid Is Essential

Delivering aid helps reduce political insecurity and the chance of conflict, which benefits all countries. Improving health standards abroad is also crucial for preventing the rise of global epidemics, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. There is also the potential for new markets to open in countries assisted by aid in the future. This is another economic opportunity for developed countries like the U.K. Finally, there is the opportunity to gain more soft power, or global political influence, through the maintenance of foreign aid. Improving existing friendships and partnerships can potentially result in positive outcomes for the countries involved. And developed countries working with less-developed nations in economically challenging times could be crucial for geo-political relations.

Looking Ahead

In the face of ongoing strikes and rising living costs, the need for aid becomes evident not only within the U.K. but also in low-and-middle-income countries facing similar challenges. Reports suggest that providing foreign aid is essential for reducing political insecurity, preventing global epidemics and fostering economic opportunities for both developed and developing nations. It also presents an opportunity to strengthen global partnerships and promote positive geo-political relations in economically challenging times.

– Hannah Naylor
Photo: Unsplash