The Venezuelan ExodusThe Venezuelan exodus represents one of the most notable mass migrations in recent history, with more than 7.5 million Venezuelans fleeing the country between 2015 and 2024 due to political repression and economic crises. These migrants leave their homeland to search for necessities such as food, safety, water, sanitation, hygiene and medical care, which are scarce in Venezuela. In their desperate and vulnerable state, many Venezuelans encounter abuse from armed groups, including sex trafficking and forced recruitment.

Colombia’s Role as a Host

Venezuela’s neighbor, Colombia, has historically experienced fluctuating relations with Venezuela and now stands at the center of the Venezuelan exodus. A World Bank report revealed that as of October 2022, Colombia hosted approximately 2.9 million Venezuelan migrants. The country addresses the challenges of mass immigration by implementing policies that integrate migrants into the broader Colombian population economically and socially. Colombia remains committed to ensuring migrants’ rights to work, live and integrate fully into society.

Institutional Support for Migrants

Colombia’s response to the increased amount of migration encompasses the establishment of a more solid legal and institutional framework to protect and facilitate the long-term integration of migrants in host regions. Central to this effort was the creation of the Presidential Border and Migration Management Office. This office issues necessary permits for the transit and stay of migrants within Colombia. They aim to regularize the migratory status of newcomers. Through the implementation of this office, more migrants gain access to vital markets and services they might otherwise lack. The services of the Migration Management Office include health care, education, social welfare, employment and housing. Other efforts have also been made to deploy services developed to protect vulnerable populations, such as initiatives for family reunification, child protection and aiding victims of human trafficking.

A Comprehensive Approach to Integration

Colombia has managed the Venezuelan exodus in three phases. Initially, in 2015, the country focused on humanitarian efforts for Colombian returnees and incoming Venezuelan migrants. It then shifted to a sustainable strategy aimed at ensuring migrants’ access to essential social services. The third phase involved a comprehensive, long-term approach, emphasizing mass regularization along with social and economic integration of Venezuelan migrants. Moreover, a key element of Colombia’s most recent phase is the Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelan Migrants (ETPV) launched in 2021. ETPV grants migrants permits to stay and work in Colombia for up to 10 years. The permits facilitate their integration into the host country and offer an escape from vulnerability and poverty.

Effective Migrant Integration Strategies in Colombia

Colombia’s clear and enduring regularization procedures enhance migrant integration. They drive positive development outcomes, leading to higher wages and employment rates. The adaptation of institutional frameworks, such as the Presidential Border and Migration Management Office, streamlines integration efforts at both national and local levels. Colombia’s ongoing response to the Venezuelan exodus establishes a significant standard for success that other countries might adopt.

– Ani Gonzalez Ward

Ani is based in Frances and focuses on Politics for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Flickr

NGO SAIIn Venezuela, many challenges persist, mainly political instability and hyperinflation. These issues have hurt most Venezuelans, resulting in many other challenges. Extreme poverty is common, affecting three out of every four citizens, and if citizens aren’t in extreme poverty, they are on the brink. Many daily struggles Venezuelans face include inadequate health care infrastructure, limited food access and economic instability.

Many products are scarce in the country, including necessities like essential medicines, clean water and affordable food. Approximately 76% of Venezuela’s population lives on $1.90 per day. This economic climate has led an estimated 5 million citizens to relocate.

The South American Initiative (SAI), a non-governmental organization (NGO), is doing much groundwork for the Venezuelan community. SAI’s mission is to help assist the country’s Venezuela’s vulnerable, including mothers, orphans, children, seniors and even dogs.

Addressing Health Care Challenges

SAI’s commitment to the Venezuelan people is to provide adequate health care. Over the past three months, SAI has provided more than 800 citizens with medical care through their free clinics. The services include specialized care in gynecology and obstetrics, EKGs, ultrasounds, nutrition counseling, regular monthly checkups and medicines. SAI’s mission to help the community continues as they have partnered with five orphanages since 2022. The orphanages receive their health care services, too. 

Alleviating Hunger

Unfortunately, many Venezuelans have to deal with hunger, particularly orphans and children. The Venezuelan government’s funding for children and orphans is shrinking due to hyperinflation and reallocation of funds. The NGO SAI has taken the initiative from November 2022 to February 2023 to provide food deliveries to orphanages. In those three months, they delivered 9,850 meals to children in need nationwide. These meals provide the nutritional requirements and assortment to meet daily dietary needs. Like food, SAI has also provided essential medicines and vitamins to boost children’s health. SAI’s adaptability remains vital as they have had challenges from the lockdowns and rising prices to deliver the meals. However, SAI has continued doing meal deliveries despite roadblocks.

Compassion for Canines

SAI’s mission extends not only to humans but also to animals’ lives. In the first quarter of this year, the organization distributed over 4,000 pounds of dog food at their SAI A&G Sanctuary, with an additional 1,000 pounds provided to neighboring shelters. The SAI A&G Sanctuary, in partnership with allied shelters, is on a mission to rescue malnourished, sick and abandoned dogs from the streets of Venezuela. These rescued dogs often arrive with parasites, malnutrition and other severe medical conditions. SAI provides many services for these dogs, such as food, clean water, vaccinations, spaying/neutering and medications. 

Venezuela is a country that needs hope, and the South American Initiative (SAI) provides it. Their commitment to alleviating the suffering of Venezuelans, both human and animal, offers relief for the population.

– Ariana Wauer
Photo: Unsplash

USAID Programs in VenezuelaUSAID has been critical in providing Venezuela with aid in the form of food assistance, health care accessibility and water support. Due to the extreme political and economic crisis in the nation, millions of Venezuelans have fled to surrounding nations like Panama and Mexico, and the majority of those still in the nation live below the poverty line. To help resolve the crisis, the U.S. deployed an interagency collective to support economic and health development, with USAID being one of the primary bodies responsible. Since 2018, USAID has allocated almost $450 million in humanitarian aid and established USAID programs in Venezuela. In addition, the organization is continuing to establish multi-sector operations for health care, food and refugee assistance.

Food Insecurity

When the Venezuelan economy faced a hyperinflation crisis in 2017, food insecurity reached an all-time high. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s response was insufficient in combating the issue of national debt and decreasing oil revenue. In fact, as of 2020, at least 95% of Venezuelans lived below the poverty line. Venezuelans living in poverty are unable to purchase food and water, due to hyperinflated prices. Additionally, the Venezuelan government has not released any data on national food availability for more than a decade, deterring public programs and policies that could alleviate inaccessibility to food and water. 

In 2021, USAID and the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) partnered to establish operations in Venezuela, providing emergency food assistance to different groups. In April 2023, the operations added a program providing hot meals to public school children and staff and people with disabilities in three districts. In the same month, USAID also provided more than 450,000 Venezuelans with food assistance. USAID also funds nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to provide cooked meals and school meals. These USAID programs in Venezuela aim to reach more than 750,000 Venezuelans, as well as more than one million people in other Latin American countries.

Health Care

Over the past decade, Venezuela’s public health infrastructure has collapsed, with few health care providers, hospitals and medical supplies left. Even with outbreaks of infectious diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and diphtheria, health care is often limited to a select few with life-threatening illnesses. Both infant and maternal mortality rates have doubled from 2012 to 2016. Moreover, the Venezuelan government has also not released any data on national health statistics since 2016, which weakened the ability to address health care needs. 

In 2022, USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) and the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) announced in funding for Venezuelan developmental assistance. The funding was used to create a number of health care programs that would train community health workers, rebuild the infrastructure of community health systems and create emergency shelters. USAID/BHA and State/PRM also partnered with 30 organizations to implement USAID programs in Venezuela for mental health and psychosocial support, as well as victims of gender-based violence (GBV).

Migrant Support

More than 7 million Venezuelans have become refugees and migrants, due to political turmoil and economic depression. Venezuelan refugees and migrants have settled in Latin American countries like Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, which has affected the range of support those nations are able to provide. USAID’s Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean is providing almost $31 million to facilitate the integration of Venezuelan migrants into host countries, and an additional $56 million for both Venezuela and host countries to create health care and protection services. In previous years, USAID also provided more than $90 million in funding to the VenEsperanza Emergency Response Consortium, an emergency response program providing humanitarian aid to Venezuelan migrants and host communities in Colombia. 

USAID Programs in Venezuela

USAID has been instrumental in addressing Venezuela’s crisis through extensive aid efforts in food assistance, health care and support for migrants. With more than $450 million allocated since 2018, USAID’s programs have provided crucial relief to millions in dire need. The initiatives include emergency food assistance, health care infrastructure rebuilding and support for victims of gender-based violence (GBV). As the Venezuelan population grapples with hyperinflation and political instability, USAID’s ongoing commitment and partnerships stand as a beacon of hope for a brighter future.

– Enne Kim
Photo: Flickr

Nicknamed “the Maduro diet” after Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, hunger in Venezuela is one of the symptoms of their current humanitarian crisis. Once a thriving and one of the most promising economies in Latin America, and home to the world’s largest oil reserves, Venezuela’s current economy is among the worst in the world.

Approximately nine in 10 people live in poverty in the country. This accounts for about a third of Latin America’s poor people. The food security crisis and widespread poverty are the results 0f a decade-long struggle with poor governance.

The State of Hunger in Venezuela

Hunger in Venezuela has been an issue of note in recent years because, in contrast to many other countries, their crisis is a result of food scarcity and years of hyperinflation which has made the most basic needs unaffordable.

Millions have fled the country and about a third of the remaining Venezuelans face food insecurity. In fact, child stunting and overall malnutrition have increased consistently since 2014, and three out of four households are forced to adopt strategies to cope with food shortages. Typically, these strategies involve reducing the size and variety of meals.  

Hyperinflation and its Causes

It all started with a land full of oil. Corruption, a struggling petrostate and an angry electorate served as the ideal scenario for socialist-populist Hugo Chavez, to be elected president in 1998. While he was well received at first, his administration began to centralize power and nationalize industries such as telecommunications, power and agriculture.

This made the economy and many government programs more dependent on the already nationalized oil industry, which would crash once again in the 2010s. Additionally, the centralization of power pulled Venezuela further from democracy into a dictatorship, which would continue after Chavez’s death through Nicolas Maduro’s presidency.

During the first years of his presidency, Maduro attempted to deal with the inherited economic struggles by printing money, which only exacerbated rising inflation. After price controls, exchange rate fixing and tax increases failed to alleviate rising prices, he printed more money again, causing exports to become more expensive, food scarcer and inflation to become hyperinflation. 

These years were the beginning of the “Maduro diet” and rising food insecurity. As hyperinflation skyrocketed between 2014 and 2018, prices of basic goods and exports rose with it, making food scarce and unaffordable.

Political Instability and Its Effects

Venezuela had a problem with violence well before 2014, but with a crippled economy and a hungry population, instability increased along with hyperinflation. The government aimed to take the lead and be the provider of everything Venezuelans needed. However, the poor economy received another blow when the U.S. imposed sanctions on the oil industry, limiting the government’s food aid.

The poor international relations also affected foreign aid, when in 2019, Maduro refused about $60 million worth of humanitarian aid to address health and food insecurity, since Venezuelans aren’t “beggars.” However, 2019 also saw economic improvements after Maduro used more sustainable economic practices, such as limiting spending and relaxing foreign exchange rates.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

In 2020, however, Venezuela along with many other developing countries experienced another economic shock with the COVID-19 pandemic, which inevitably impacted hunger in Venezuela. Companies closed, remittances decreased and people lost their jobs. Unfortunately, this had effects on their ability to afford food once again.

Venezuela began to cooperate with international aid efforts again in 2021. Charities sprung back up, and Maduro signed an agreement with the World Food Programme (WFP) to provide help for 1.5 million children in Venezuela’s poorest regions.

As for the economy, the end of 2022 raised hyperinflation concerns despite a period of a more sustainable economic position due to an increase in demand for dollars, government spending and a weakening of the Bolivar due to the impacts of the pandemic.

Impact of International Efforts

According to a report from Human Rights Watch, the United Nations (U.N.) has initiated a comprehensive plan worth $762.5 million aimed at aiding 4.5 million Venezuelans who are considered the most vulnerable. The plan includes a dedicated allocation of $87.9 million to tackle the health and socio-economic repercussions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Furthermore, the WFP has implemented initiatives aimed at supporting schools in providing rations and improving their infrastructure, hygiene and food services.

Looking Ahead

While Venezuela has experienced difficult times characterized by hyperinflation and rising food insecurity, cooperation with international organizations has helped the country make some progress in recent times. There is still room for much work, especially after the pandemic’s effects, but with better fiscal practices and ongoing foreign aid interventions, there is hope for a hunger-free future.

Gustavo Gutierrez Nidasio

Photo: Pixabay

10 Facts About Hunger in Venezuela

Food shortages across Venezuela started to rise in 2013, around the time of President Hugo Chávez’s death. Less than a year later, the nation’s oil-dependent economy began to tank and inflation began to soar. Venezuela could no longer afford the cost of its imported basic goods, resulting in nationwide shortages in food and medicine. While the nation’s instability worsens, people are going hungry in Venezuela. Here are the top seven facts about hunger in Venezuela.

7 Facts About Hunger in Venezuela

  1. In 2017, 89.4 percent of Venezuelan households could not afford basic food supplies due to inflation and six out of 10 Venezuelans reported going to bed hungry. In February 2019, peak inflation in food prices hit a staggering 371,545.6 percent and high rates are continuing throughout 2019.
  2. Due to hunger in Venezuela, malnourishment is quite common. The United Nations reported that nearly 3.7 million Venezuelans suffered from malnourishment in 2018.
  3. Mass weight loss is also common across Venezuela as 64.3 percent of Venezuelans lost weight due to food shortages in 2017. Venezuelans who lost weight dropped an average of 11.4 kg each since the shortages began. 
  4. Available food supplies all too often end up on the black market and are sold by bachaqueros. Bachaqueros buy subsidized goods at government-set prices, then sell those goods at double, even triple, the original price, taking advantage of struggling communities. This illegal practice is exacerbated by Venezuela’s compounded crises.
  5. Without easy access to affordable food supplies, some Venezuelans resort to using alternative resources. For example, the yuca root can replace potatoes, which is a similar, yet far cheaper vegetable. In more desperate cases, scavenging for scraps has also become popular.
  6. Although President Nicolás Maduro has rejected many types of humanitarian aid, including extensive efforts to send food supplies, the government has accepted aid from nonpartisan groups. In 2018 alone, Cuatro Por Venezuela, one of the largest relief suppliers, sent 41,804 pounds of food to Venezuela, amounting to 120,000 standard meals for people in need. These supplies are distributed directly to schools, orphanages, nursing homes and homeless shelters all over Venezuela.
  7. In addition to nonpartisan NGOs, international government groups, such as the European Commission (EC), allocated another €50 million to the crisis in Venezuela, along with additional food supplies and nutritional services in March 2019. 

As food shortages continue and people remain hungry, these seven facts about hunger in Venezuela show that the country is in a clear humanitarian crisis. While there are aid efforts out there, supplies must be sent in as nonpartisan support. So long as aid efforts adhere to this restriction, there is hope for hunger relief in Venezuela.

—Suzette Shultz
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Top 10 Facts about Hunger In Venezuela
Venezuela’s current economic recession has far more reaching consequences for the Venezuelan people than anticipated. At the beginning of 2010, inflation began to rise by over a thousand percent and the economy shrunk, resulting in low oil prices in 2015 and in food and oil shortages today. Perhaps the most devastating consequence is that the price of basic necessities skyrocketed, and hunger in Venezuela increased. Below are the facts about hunger in Venezuela.

Hunger in Venezuela Key Facts

  1. Food shortages are the country’s biggest problem. Across the country, poor and middle-class Venezuelans are unable to afford food and often must wait in long lines known as “colas” to find basic food like flour and rice. The government subsidizing of food in the country is limited, but the only affordable option.
  2. Malnutrition has increased. In the poorest segments of the population, especially in slums and areas of Caracas, malnutrition has increased greatly, as noted by many health workers. Often, families cannot afford two or three meals a day and those meals consist of just bread or banana.
  3. Smugglers provide food for the poorest. Despite the risk, the black market for food has exploded in the recent years of the crisis. Smugglers bring food from outside the country, and their goods are often the only ones that the poor can afford. Often, when mothers cannot feed newborns due to their own malnutrition, they procure formula from smugglers.
  4. Pets are also starving as a result. Since families cannot afford to feed themselves, many dogs and other pets have been left out to starve on the streets. Hunger in Venezuela has led these animals to search for scraps but their presence can pose a danger to public health.
  5. Venezuela has declined aid from the U.S. and the Amnesty International. Despite offers, the current Government of Venezuela under President Maduro has refused aid. Private charities have been allowed to help, but Maduro claims that socialism within the country will protect the citizens from starvation in the end.
  6. Maduro blames outside forces and pressures for the crisis. Maduro, who has been re-elected in May 2018, says the crisis is a problem from outside, not from Venezuela’s own government. His position has been greatly weakened by the hunger crisis in the country. As prices rise, desertion rises in the army and paramilitary groups have grown.
  7. Media coverage of the crisis has been critiqued as inaccurateAccording to a 2016 report, in the course of the crisis, 93 percent of Venezuelans thought they did not have enough money to purchase food and had lost 19 pounds on average. But in the reports from the country were also the statistic numbers of 67.5 percent of Venezuelans that still ate three meals a day and only 25 percent of people felt their nutrition was inefficient. The conflict between these figures could imply that the crisis is not as terrible as reported, but the more positive statistics are rarely discussed in English speaking news reports, which rely more on anecdotal evidence of hunger in Venezuela.
  8. Venezuelan employers are trying to help workers. Since many employees come to work hungry, they cannot perform their best, so at some farms, farmers began providing meals for their workers while they are at work, in an effort to keep up productivity and prevent losing more employees to malnutrition. Since operating farms is more expensive now, the farmers have elected to pay their employees not with money, but with food, which is much more valuable for many families.
  9. Venezuelans in the U.S. are shipping food to relativesDespite the grim facts, many relatives are determined to help their families combat hunger in Venezuela. In particular, communities in Miami, a common home for Venezuelan immigrants, have begun collecting food like rice, beans, and sugar. The shipping prices are often incredibly expensive, but mobilization has been made easier by social media efforts.
  10. Many charities send food to private organizations on the ground in Venezuela. Donations go to health institutions not affiliated with the Venezuelan government, as most of them do not trust the government. An effort is being made especially to help the most vulnerable, like native communities, nursing homes and special needs children’s organizations.

Perhaps the best news is that, despite the problems within Venezuela, the estimates of hunger in Venezuela are better than in other countries in the region. The percentage of Venezuelans below the poverty line is lower than in neighboring countries like Bolivia. With the mobilization of charities across the globe, the situation has improved for some people in Venezuela.

– Grace Gay

Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid to Venezuela
The past few years have been extremely difficult for Venezuelan citizens as their economy slowly deteriorated with the rise of oppressive government leaders. From medicine shortages to an extreme lack of food, Venezuelans have been experiencing a profound humanitarian crisis. While the United Nations, the United States and other countries have called on President Nicolas Maduro to accept international humanitarian aid to Venezuela, Maduro has refused any kind of aid that could potentially open doors to foreign military intervention.

The Venezuelan government has been denying the existence of a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela even with its growing inflation rate of 720 percent and a poverty rate of 86 percent in 2016, which explains their limited efforts to alleviate the crisis and obtain assistance from other countries.

Shortages of Medicine and Food

Shortages of medicine have become widespread, leading to a succession of alarming deaths of preventable medical conditions. Maternal and neonatal deaths have substantially increased in the past two years. A 2016 report from the Ministry of Health shows a percentage of 2.01 percent of neonatal deaths, being 100 times higher than it was in 2012 with only 0.02 percent neonatal deaths.

In terms of food, the situation has worsened over the years. The latest National Survey of Living Conditions (ENCOVI) has revealed a major increase in the number of Venezuelans eating two meals or less per day, going from 11.3 percent in 2015 to 32.5 percent in 2016.

Humanitarian aid to Venezuela

Several small non-profit organizations have provided humanitarian aid to Venezuela by engaging in discrete shipments of medicine and food to the affected areas. Shipments are then collected and distributed to hospitals, doctors and organizations by volunteers working in Venezuela.

However, many organizations, such as Move Org in Miami, have stopped sending shipments to Venezuelans in need, as the government recently banned the import of any items that seem to be “war material”. As a result, a lot of medicines are confiscated by authorities by being deemed as a war material, worsening the situation of citizens depending on them.

Florida Senators, Ben Cardin and Marco Rubio offered some hope to Venezuelans citizens by creating a bill known as the “Venezuelan Humanitarian Assistance and Defense of Governance Act of 2017”, which, as the title states, will provide humanitarian aid to Venezuela. Senators also set aside a total of $10 million to effectively implement the measures proposed in the bill, which include providing food, medicine and nutritional supplements to the country’s citizens.

Venezuela’s inflation rate jumped to 740 percent in 2017 and is predicted to increase even more in the future, putting the lives of Venezuelans in danger. Humanitarian aid to Venezuela needs to keep growing with the help of non-profit organizations or governmental figures from other states.

– Sarah Soutoul

Photo: Flickr