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Refugee CrisesWars, persecution and horrific conditions caused by extreme poverty created 36 million refugees around the world. 24 million of these refugees come from just 5 countries: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Myanmar. Here’s a look into the five largest refugee crises of our time.

Syria

Syria has 5.6 million refugees and is among the largest and most well-known refugee crises today. When the government cracked down on peaceful student protests, the Syrian Civil War started March 15, 2011 and has now killed 500,000 people.  Bombing infrastructure destroys living conditions resulting in 6 million people being displaced. With 70% of Syrians living in extreme poverty, nearly 11 million Syrians need humanitarian aid. Due to conflict, aid groups are struggling to access the areas that need assistance.

One-fourth of the world’s refugees are from Syria. Turkey and Germany host many Syrian refugees. The neighboring country of  Turkey hosts the most refugees in the world, totaling 3.6 million Syrian refugees. To handle the large influx of refugees in its country Turkey is working to improve refugee conditions. Germany hosts 1.1 million Syrian refugees. Germany recently obtained the EU presidency and plans on reforming the asylum rules so there will be a more equal number of refugees among EU states. The Syrian refugee crisis has lasted a decade and affects over 17 million people globally. If Turkey and Germany continue to work to adjust laws regarding asylum, more Syrian refugees will be able to find a safe haven in those countries.

Venezuela

Venezuelan refugees number 3.7 million. In 2014, oil prices fell and created an economic collapse. The current inflation rate of 15,000%  has pushed 14 million Venezuelans to live in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 a day. Shortages of food, water, and medicine constantly threaten the health of Venezuelans. Hyperinflation and lack of resources drive refugees from this crisis into bordering countries such as Columbia.

Columbia hosts the second most refugees in the world with 1.8 million Venezuelan refugees. The Columbian government is working to include Venezuelan refugees economically by providing Special Stay Permits that allow more than 100,000 refugees to earn a living working in the country.

Afghanistan

Forty years of conflict following the Soviet invasion in 1979 created 2.7 million refugees from Afghanistan. Political uncertainty and conflict have led to 2 million people being displaced in Afghanistan. Natural disasters and attacks on aid workers prevent those displaced from receiving much-needed support. Pakistan and Iran host most of these refugees.

With one out of every ten refugees being from Afghanistan, this crisis needs immediate attention. Pakistan hosts 1.4 million Afghan refugees and is working with the UN to provide more schooling opportunities. However, if conditions improve in Afghanistan, it is possible that 60,000 refugees could return to Afghanistan.

South Sudan

Around 2.2 million refugees are from South Sudan. South Sudan is the youngest nation in the world after becoming independent from Sudan in 2011. In 2013, a civil war broke out causing 383,000 deaths due to violence and hunger. Meanwhile, 4 million people became displaced from their homes. Food insecurity caused by famines and war has left 5.5 million people hungry.  Malnourishment greatly affects the development of children, who make up 63% of this refugee population. This is the largest refugee crisis in Africa, with most refugees fleeing to Ethiopia and Uganda.

Uganda hosts 1.7 million refugees and works to integrate them into society by providing them with land.
Currently, there is a mental health crisis among refugees. Suicides are on the rise, and COVID-19 puts an even bigger strain on the health of South Sudanese refugees. If Uganda gains more funding, it can improve the mental health of refugees by providing more support. Uganda’s progressive approach to refugees can help South Sudanese refugees start a new life.

Myanmar

The Rohingya Crisis has created 1.1 million refugees from Myanmar. Myanmar is a Buddhist country, but the Rohingya Muslims are a minority group. The Myanmar government refuses to recognize the Rohingya people as citizens, therefore they are a stateless people. In 2017 the Myanmar army burned up to 288 Rohingya villages and carried out mass killings.  To escape persecution, over 700,000 people have fled to Bangladesh and now stay in the largest refugee camp in the world: Cox’s Bazar. In 2020 the United Nations International Court of Justice has called for an end to the violence against the Rohingya and for the government to recognize the Rohingya as citizens.

Future of Refugees

Conflict and poverty are creating refugees in 2020. Most refugees originate from Syria, but Venezuela’s numbers are beginning to rise to the same level. Host countries need to continue to reform government laws to include refugees in their communities. Millions of people, both refugees and host countries, are globally affected by the current refugee crises.

— Hannah Nelson

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

The State of Venezuelan Sex TraffickingThe recent collapse of Venezuela’s economy and political stability has made the headlines of many news outlets. The controversial reelection of President Nicholas Maduro in May 2018 plunged Venezuela back into violent protests and demonstrations. As of June 2019, more than four million people had fled from Venezuela’s deteriorating conditions. In this mass exodus, women and children are especially vulnerable to Venezuelan sex trafficking.

Venezuelan Sex Trafficking

Venezuela’s sex traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Venezuela. More than four million Venezuelans are fleeing from their country, according to the Refugee International’s 2019 field report. The recent influx of Venezuelans fleeing their country presents a new boom in Venezuela’s sex and human trafficking. Neighboring countries, mainly Colombia, Brazil, Tobago, Trinidad and Ecuador, have experience receiving refugees from Venezuela.

What makes the situation especially difficult is the sheer number of refugees who are fleeing from Venezuela. The Brazilian Ministry of Justice reported that there were 2,577 refugee status requests made between 2016 and 2017 for the state of Amazonas. This makes up 12.8 percent of the requests made nationwide.

This increase in the number of people attempting to leave the country makes it hard for many Venezuelan refugees to use the legal pathways. Many Venezuelan refugees utilize illegal means, such as the black market or illegal armed groups, to escape their country.

In June 2019, a story of Venezuelan refugees shipwrecked near Trinidad and Tobago brought the dark underbelly of Venezuelan sex trafficking to light. Traffickers in the first shipwreck included members of the Bolivarian National Guard and a member of Venezuela’s maritime authority. These individuals were arrested after a survivor of the shipwreck spoke out against them.

Survivors of the second shipwreck testified that the traffickers charged $250 and $500 to everyone aboard the boat headed for Trinidad and Tobago. In both cases, captains of the boats concealed the fact that the women and children were headed to Trinidad and Tobago to work as prostitutes. Venezuelan women and children are especially vulnerable to sex trafficking in Colombia and Ecuador, according to the U.S. Department of State’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons report.

Venezuelan Refugees Entering Colombia

Venezuelan sex trafficking is not limited to domestic trafficking. Many Venezuelan female refugees entering Colombia are in danger of sexual exploitation. Since Colombia’s legal requirements to enter the country are very strict, many Venezuelan refugees resort to informal routes and illegal armed groups to enter Colombia. In the Refugee International’s 2019 investigation, many refugees testified that women and girls are forced to pay for their safe passage through sexual services to traffickers.

After entering Colombia through illicit means, Venezuelan refugees must live without any proper identification. As refugees without any identification or means to support themselves, many Venezuelan women turn to street prostitution in order to make ends meet.

The Colombian government is taking steps to register these refugees. Colombia passed Act 985, which created the Interagency Committee for the Fight against Trafficking in Persons (ICFTP).  The ICFTP works with 88 anti-trafficking committees, which work with many NGOs to train police, government officials and law officials in identifying victims and providing legal assistance to human trafficking victims. Colombia also plans to grant citizenship to 24,000 undocumented Venezuelan children who were born in the country. Experts believe that this will reduce the reliance of refugees on illicit organizations in order to escape Venezuela.

The Quito Process

In September 2019, multiple Latin American countries came together in the Declaration of Quito on Human Mobility of Venezuelan Citizens. In the declaration, participating countries agreed to bolster cooperation, communication and coordination in collective humanitarian assistance for the Venezuelan refugees.

Part of the Quito Process’ goal is to prevent Venezuelan sex trafficking and assist the victims of sex trafficking in Latin America. By streamlining and coordinating documentation required in acquiring legal resident status, the Quito Process makes it easier for participating countries to more effectively assist Venezuelan refugees.

Experts recommend the participating countries further investigate and understand the demographics of Venezuelan refugees. Since many refugees escape to other countries for financial stability, experts recommend that participating countries work to make obtaining a stable job easier.

The Colombian government has been credited for its adherence and furthering of the Quito Process. In March 2019 Colombia fulfilled its commitment to the second Quito conference by allowing Venezuelan refugees to enter Colombia with expired passports. In addition, experts are demanding increased rights for displaced refugees in the hosting countries of the Quito Process.

The crisis in Venezuela is increasing Venezuelan sex trafficking. Venezuelan women and young girls are especially vulnerable to sex trafficking and exploitation. While the current situation is grim, it is clear that South American countries are coming together to remedy the current situation. Through the Quito Process, they are working to assist Venezuelan human trafficking victims and eliminate the sex trafficking of Venezuelan refugees. With these efforts, the international community hopes for a quick end to the Venezuelan crisis.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

The Fall of Venezuela’s Oil-Based Economy
Currently, Venezuela is in an economic crisis. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Venezuela’s inflation rate will exceed 10 million percent by the end of 2019. This high inflation has destroyed Venezuela’s economy, causing poverty and unemployment rates to rise. In turn, it has also created mass food and medical supply shortages across the nation. Venezuela was not always in a state of crisis; it was once a thriving country backed by a booming oil-based economy. If one understands the fall of Venezuela’s oil-based economy, they will know how Venezuela’s current crisis came to be.

Fruitful Origins

Back in the 1920s, people found some of the world’s largest deposits of oil in Venezuela. Upon this discovery, Venezuela embarked on the path of a petrostate. As a petrostate, Venezuela’s economy relies almost entirely on oil exports. The government overlooked domestic manufacturing and agriculture, choosing to import basic goods instead of producing them within Venezuela. With strong support for an oil-based economy, Venezuela rode on its economic boom until the end of the worldwide energy crisis of the 1970s.

The 1970s energy crisis involved international oil shortages due to interrupted supplies from the Middle East. In place of the Middle East, Venezuela became one of the top oil suppliers worldwide. Oil prices thus skyrocketed due to limited suppliers and oil production in Venezuela increased to meet rising demand. Venezuela added about $10 billion to its economy during the energy crisis, providing enough wealth to cover the importation of basic goods. It was even able to begin more social welfare programs.

The Fall

Once the energy crisis ended in the early 1980s and oil prices stabilized again, Venezuela’s economy saw its first notable decline. Oil production did not decrease in spite of lowered oil prices and demand, resulting in a capital loss for Venezuela’s economy. The production of oil is an expensive endeavor which requires high capital investment in the hopes of that even higher sales can offset the investment. Therefore, while oil production remained high, Venezuela failed to build off of the investment, losing capital immediately.

This loss of capital marked Venezuela’s oil-based economy’s initial fall, as Venezuela risked its well-being on the unstable oil market. Just prior to the drop in oil prices, Venezuela went into debt from purchasing foreign oil refineries. Without investing in domestic agriculture or manufacturing, the Venezuelan government became economically strapped; it could no longer pay for its imports and programs, and especially not its new refineries.

In order to pay for its expenses, Venezuela had to rely on foreign investors and remaining national bank reserves. Inflation soared as the country drilled itself further into debt. It was not until the early 2000s that oil prices began to rise again and Venezuela could once more become a profitable petrostate — in theory. Under the regime of Hugo Chávez, social welfare programs and suspected embezzlement negated the billions of dollars in revenue from peaked oil exports.

By 2014, when oil prices took another harsh drop worldwide, Venezuela did not reserve enough funds from its brief resurgence of prosperity. Ultimately, the country fell back into a spiral of debt and inflation.

Lasting Effects

The fall of Venezuela’s oil-based economy sent shockwaves throughout its population, affecting poverty and unemployment rates and causing mass food and medical shortages. Estimates determined that in April 2019, Venezuela’s poverty rate reached nearly 90 percent nationwide. A notable factor of its widespread poverty, some suggest that Venezuela’s unemployment rate was 44.3 percent at the start of 2019.

Unemployment is rapidly increasing in Venezuela as both domestic and foreign companies lay off workers — with some companies offering buyouts or pension packages, and others just firing workers without warning. As Venezuela falls further into debt and its inflation rises, there is not enough demand within the country for foreign companies to stay there.

As previously mentioned, the earlier Venezuelan government chose to rely on imports rather than domestic production for its basic goods. Now, in 2019, the country suffers from its past mistakes. Unable to afford its imports, food and medical supply shortages are rampant across Venezuela. According to recent United Nations reports, over a 10th of the nation’s population is suffering from malnourishment. In addition, malaria — which the country virtually eliminated several decades prior — is reappearing as there are more than 400,000 cases nationwide.

A Way Out

While the fall of Venezuela’s oil-based economy may be detrimental to the nation’s overall stability, there is a way out of ruin: the International Monetary Fund, an international agency that exists to financially aid countries in crisis. In the fight against global poverty, the IMF is a vital tool that can prevent countries from reaching an irreparable state.

If Venezuela defaults on its debt and seeks funding from the IMF, Venezuela would be able to invest in domestic agriculture and other infrastructure. Therefore, if the oil industry continues to decline, there will be a fallback for supplies and potential exports. While this is not a panacea to the fall of Venezuela’s oil-based economy, it is a way for the nation to prepare for any future declines in oil prices and begin to work toward prosperity.

– Suzette Shultz
Photo: Flickr

Venezuelans Fleeing
As the beneficiary of the world’s largest oil reserves, Venezuela was once the wealthiest nation in Latin America. However, in 2014, the economy began to collapse. The Bolivar, its currency, has gone into free fall, leaving millions unable to afford even the most basic necessities. According to Bloomberg’s Café con leche index, a cup of coffee today costs the same as 1,800 cups in January 2018. As food and health care become more difficult to come by, many Venezuelans are faced with the decision of struggling to get by or fleeing the country.

Why Flee?

Every day, thousands of Venezuelans leave their country in search of safety and stability, many of them arriving in Colombia. The International Rescue Committee has been supporting families in need in Cúcuta, a border city, since April 2018.

Venezuela is millions in debt while the only commodity that the country relies on is oil. Unfortunately, the value of oil has plummeted. In 2014, the price of oil was about $100 a barrel. Then several countries started to pump too much oil as new drilling technology could dredge up what was previously inaccessible, but businesses globally were not buying more gasoline. Too much oil caused the global price to drop to $26 in 2016. Today the price hovers around $50, which means that Venezuela’s income has been cut in half.

At the same time, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s hostility towards foreign business has created a corporate exodus. Companies such as United, General Motors and Pepsi have left entirely and unemployment in Venezuela could reach 25 percent this year. To try and keep up, Maduro has raised the minimum wage three times in 2019 in order to provide a little short-term relief to the poor. Currently, the minimum wage is at 18,000 bolivars per month, which is around $6.70 U.S.

How Many Venezuelans Have Left?

According to the U.N., more than three million people have already left Venezuela since the crisis began, and that number is increasing at a rapid rate. Approximately one million people, several lacking official documentation, have gone to neighboring Colombia. However, Peru is the second most popular destination country for Venezuelan refugees, with over 500,000. Ecuador follows, with over 220,000, Argentina with over 130,000, Chile with over 100,000 and Brazil with 85,000 immigrants.

By the end of 2019, the number of Venezuelans fleeing the country should reach 5.3 million. Nearly 300,000 children have fled the homes and lives they once knew, and approximately 10 percent of the country’s total population has already left.

The Way Out

The majority of those fleeing Venezuela do so on foot, and the road begins close to Cúcuta. Many people pay smugglers to use a trocha, which is an illegal border crossing through a river. On the Colombian side of the border has become a huge open-air market for all the things that people cannot get in Venezuela anymore. Vendors advertise medicines and cigarettes, candy and phone minutes for people to call home.

Sadly, some do not make the journey on foot. In Cúcuta, the temperature can hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit. However, on other parts of the route, the road climbs to 10,000 feet above sea level and temperature can drop below freezing. Walking this route takes approximately 32 days. The mountain pass, La Nevera, translates to the Refrigerator. Aid groups and residents have opened their homes and set up shelters along the path. However, the number of Venezuelans fleeing the country has surpassed the number of shelters available along the way, making space for only the lucky few.

The Impact

The emotional wellbeing of children who have fled Venezuela is of high concern. Sometimes traveling alone, boys and girls disrupt their education and are in great danger of falling behind in school and never catching up again. On the contrary, some parents leave their children behind when they leave the country. These children often gain material benefits from their parents’ migration, because sending hard currency to relatives provides greater access to food, medicine and other lacking necessities.

Furthermore, tensions between Venezuelans fleeing the country and citizens of other countries is often high. Colombia has had to reach out to the international community for help in dealing with the influx of migrants. Hospitals and elementary schools in Cúcuta have been overwhelmed, and administrators complain about the central government’s failure to reimburse them for the cost of caring for migrants. The national government has suspended the issuance of temporary visas, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, has promised $30 million in assistance.

In Ecuador, anti-immigrant sentiments reached a highpoint when a Venezuelan allegedly stabbed to death his pregnant Ecuadorian girlfriend, Diana Ramirez Reyes, in front of police and scared residents of the city of Ibarra. Since then, President Lenin Moreno decreed a tougher immigration policy that requires incoming Venezuelans to present a document certifying they had a clean criminal record in Venezuela. However, such documents are costly to obtain in Venezuela.

Similarly, Peru and Chileans have developed hesitation toward Venezuelans fleeing the country. People cannot renew work permits in Peru and as of 2018, the country decided to stop issuing them. A recent survey in Chile found that many natives disapprove of the number of immigrants coming in. Seventy-five percent of those responding to the survey thought that the number of immigrants was excessive.

Who is Helping?

Since April 2018, the IRC has been working in Cúcuta supporting Venezuelans and vulnerable Colombians with specialized services for women and children, cash assistance and health care. Aid organizations and families are also working to help immigrants along the route. The Colombian Red Cross has a small aid station on the outskirts of Pamplona, a city in Colombia’s Norte de Santander region.

The U.S. government has also helped by providing about $200 million in humanitarian aid to address the crisis in the region. Most of this money has gone to Colombia as do the majority of Venezuelans fleeing the country.

UNICEF has appealed for $69.5 million to meet the needs of uprooted children from Venezuela and those living in host and transit communities across the LAC region. It is working with national and local governments, host communities and partners to ensure access to safe drinking water, sanitation, protection, education and health services for Venezuelans fleeing the country.

– Grace Arnold
Photo: Flickr

 

Venezuela
What began as an economic recession in Venezuela has quickly escalated into a humanitarian crisis where one must fight to survive. Venezuela is steadily becoming the most violent country in the world. At least 28,479 deaths of a violent nature occurred in 2016, and the nation currently holds a homicide rate of 91.8 for every 100,000 people. The hunger crisis and the fact that 82 percent of its population is living in poverty could be linked with the growing rate of crime and violence in Venezuela.

Conditions Leading Up to the Violence

In 2014, Venezuela was struck by an economic recession caused by the decline in oil prices – Venezuela’s primary export. Its biggest shortfall came with the collapse of Venezuela’s currency when the price of imported goods swelled and the country was forced to limit the number of goods brought in. Staples like toilet paper or rice were often impossible to find, and when one did locate them, such essential products were often too expensive to buy. A shortage in even basic medicines and medical supplies began causing serious concerns.

The Borgen Project was fortunate enough to interview Venezuelan national and Ph.D. student, Maria Alemán. She described the scene, “Picture a supermarket or a grocery store when there is a snow storm in one of the southern states. You go in and everything is empty. There is nothing. That’s how it is there 24/7.” This lack of imported goods has created panic and a hunger crisis in Venezuela. With the widespread panic, Venezuela was faced with having to put strict regulations on many goods available for purchase. “If you get to the store and they are regulating an item, let’s say you want to buy two gallons of milk because you have a big family. Well no, if they are only allowing you to buy a gallon, then that is all you get,” Maria explains.

Lack of Jobs and Resources is Creating Chaos

The collapse of Venezuela’s economy affected the job market. Many businesses’ closed or took their business out of the country, leaving families to struggle with the cost of rising food prices with no source of income or not nearly enough income. “People are starving because the price of food is too expensive, even with a monthly salary,” Maria defends. As conditions grew dire and many were met with the challenge of feeding themselves and their families, crime in Venezuela rose at an epidemic rate. The Venezuelan Observatory on Violence (VOV) reported a 14 percent increase in violent crimes from 2012 to 2013. In 2015, 17,778 people were murdered in Venezuela; however, the VOV revealed that those numbers were as high as 27,875.

Maria recalls a shift in the nature of the crimes as desperation fueled robberies with the threat of violence. “Thieves started to go find knives and guns because there was no other way people were going to go and give them their stuff. People got so upset that they had no choice but to start killing people to actually feel threatened. It’s even worse now because people are having to kill to survive.” With no other resources available, the population turned to violence, either in an effort to attain resources or to protect oneself from others trying to take resources.

If things couldn’t seem any worse, the increase in crime and violence running rampant in the streets of Venezuela was a catalyst for the formation of several crime organizations who have taken to exploiting the hunger of young people to get them to participate in criminal activities, which is only adding to the rising crime rate.

Efforts to Decrease Crime and Violence in Venezuela

While Venezuela has implemented a subsidized food program that benefits 87 percent of Venezuelans, it hasn’t done much to slow the hunger-induced crime sprees. Maria says, “people receive boxes from the government with some food products like rice, flour, etc., but not everyone gets the same products in their boxes. The contents of a single box aren’t enough for a family of four.” Clearly, the government needs to find other solutions than providing a small amount of food per family.

Other attempts to alleviate the situation were raising the minimum wage to 34 times the previous amount and minting a new currency (the “sovereign bolivar”) to replace the “strong bolivar.” Unfortunately, new currency or no, businesses cannot afford to pay the new minimum wage set by the government and are laying off employees or, in the worst case scenario, closing down. There have been attempts by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) to act as a mediator between the people and the government amidst the protesting, but no demands have been met. Although the situation is bleak, the hopes for successful negotiation may be the only way to end the crisis in Venezuela.

Although crime and violence in Venezuela have been commonplace in the past, current living conditions in Venezuela have escalated the crime to new heights, creating a harsh reality many are facing in order to survive. Without the basic means of survival such as a livable wage, job security and even access to basic resources, Venezuela will continue to see a steadily climbing crime and murder rate.

– Catherine Wilson

Photo: Flickr

malnutrition in venezuelaA humanitarian hunger crisis has struck the country of Venezuela. The economy has hit rock bottom and moderate to severe child malnutrition in Venezuela has reached 11.4 percent for children under the age of five. The World Health Organization states that a threshold of 10 percent must be surpassed in order to declare a crisis, and Venezuela has well exceeded that threshold. Venezuela’s continuously unstable economy is to blame for the decrease in food and the increase in hunger.

When Venezuela struck massive amounts of oil during World War I, its economy skyrocketed. Its success with oil reserves led to a blossoming economy that assisted in providing its people with what they needed to thrive. However, Venezuela had only relied on the income from the oil industry to fuel its economy. With no economic backup plan, Venezuela was heading down a path of economic destruction.

Venezuela’s economy began its dramatic decline in the 1980s. After the oil price collapse and the accumulation of internal and external government debts, it became apparent that the country had a major financial burden to address. Economic policies to solve this issue were failing and the government was falling deeper into corruption, causing more economic instability.

The coming years would not be any brighter for Venezuela. Ongoing economic mismanagement led to increasing poverty levels. Venezuela went into a recession in 2014, invoking more worry for the country and putting more pressure on the government to make the right economic decisions. The government’s dysfunctional way of solving the country’s money problems eventually led to the worst economic decision to date.

Venezuela’s inflation levels became one of the highest in the world, reaching a record high of 800 percent in December 2016. This hyperinflation came after the Venezuelan government’s decision to enact an internal embargo on food imports, completely cutting off outside sources of food and causing massive food shortages. These food shortages caused an increase in food prices to an unattainable amount. People could not buy food anymore, as a basic food basket could cost up to 16 times the amount of minimum wage.

A popular food item bought in Venezuela is cornmeal. Used to make an arepa, the previous cost of a two-pound bag of cornmeal was 190 bolivars. Now, the cost is 975 bolivars per two-pound bag. This astronomical increase in price hinders the ability to purchase the essential ingredient to make a wholesome meal.

Food shortages directly affect child malnutrition in Venezuela. In just four short years, child malnutrition has gone from three percent to as high as 13 percent in some parts of Venezuela. Families are scavenging the streets to find any morsel of something edible, or standing in line all day only to receive two to three morsels of food to feed their entire family. Today, eight in 10 families eat less than before, and six in 10 families go without food on a regular basis.

Business Insider conducted an interview with Venezuelan resident Lilian Tovar. She weighed in on her personal experience with hunger, stating “If we eat breakfast, we don’t eat lunch, if we eat lunch, we don’t eat dinner, and if we eat dinner, we don’t eat breakfast.” Compromise has become a mindset of the Venezuelan people, deeply affecting both themselves and their children.

Malnutrition can have a lasting effect on a child’s life. When there is limited access to food, children can become deficient in nutrients needed for proper body development. Some of the 20 essential nutrients needed for a healthy body include calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin K, boron and manganese. These nutrients are found in many plant-based foods and grains. Unfortunately, these products are not easily found, and if found they are at a price that no family can afford. Therefore, a child who is lacking these essential nutrients has a higher risk of bone growth problems and will likely never reach their full growth potential. Inadequate nutrition can also lead to a weak immune system, allowing the body to become more susceptible to diseases and infections later in life. In the worst cases of child malnutrition, normally involving gastrointestinal infection, death is imminent.

Caritas, a crisis-centered organization whose work is now heavily dedicated to Venezuela’s malnutrition crisis, states that “The response to the food crisis must be a social and economic priority, taking the politics out of protecting the most vulnerable people and facilitating the relief work of all those who, officially or unofficially, have direct contact with those most in need throughout the country.” Caritas’ thorough research studies across the four Venezuelan states of Distrito Capital, Vargas, Miranda and Zuliahave have led to their decision to put their full foot forward in rehabilitating the country.

Caritas’ main priority is children under five. They supply malnourished children with food supplements that include protein and iron. Children are brought into Caritas’ makeshift facilities for regular nutrition check-ups in order to provide them with nutritional and medical attention.

Caritas is sending out a desperate plea for the sake of child malnutrition in Venezuela. Their efforts cannot be accomplished alone. Families are suffering and every day more children are being diagnosed with malnutrition. This is now a worldwide cry for help, a call to action and a need for involvement. To eradicate child malnutrition in Venezuela, this call must be answered. Children are the future and with the help of the people, the future is what these children will see.

– Brianna Summ

Photo: Flickr

Venezuela Poverty RateIn a country locked the throes of a terrible economic crisis, the Venezuela poverty rate continues to rise. Eighty-two percent of the population now lives in poverty, and inflation rates are estimated to reach 680 percent by the end of this year. To make matters worse, this number is projected to rise to a whopping 2,069 percent by the end of 2018. Medicine and medical equipment has become increasingly scarce, as the public health system cannot afford to treat patients, and poverty and violent crime are reaching record levels.

So, how did a country that experienced not insignificant economic growth under Chavez, become embroiled in an unprecedented bout of hyperinflation? Rampant governmental corruption and a drop in oil prices are the major contributors. Venezuela boasts the world’s largest proven oil reserves, and, under Chavez, leveraged high gas prices to create nationwide economic growth.

According to historian Greg Grandon, Chavez saw high petroleum prices as “a way to tax the First World, and then redistribute that revenue through equitable social programs, solidarity and support for poor energy-importing nations.” However, since oil prices began falling in 2013, the nation’s dependency on oil as the center of its economy has left the country in the depths of economic collapse.

Yet another factor in the collapse, and the source of much of the corruption in government, stems from the coexistence of different currency exchange rates and the ever-growing gap between the official rates and the black market rate. The lower official rate is set at 10 bolivares/dollar. This rate is used for “essential imports” such as food, medicine and materials for domestic production of necessary goods.

In addition to this standard currency rate, there is a fluctuating black-market rate, which has risen enormously over the past several years. This rate is currently well over 1,000 bolivares/dollar and was last measured at 1,567 bolivars/dollar on Nov. 1. This yawning gulf between exchange rates has wildly devalued currency. It also provides government, business and military officials, who are provided dollars using the lower official exchange rate, to change this money on the black market to rake in obscene profits.

As the economic crisis intensifies and the Venezuela poverty rate increases, President Nicolas Maduro’s popularity has plummeted. He has responded to popular protests by removing the Congress’s legislative power, and has taken on increasingly authoritarian policies. The opposition-led Congress is understandably outraged, and has led efforts to remove Maduro from power and to substantially privatize Venezuela’s socialized industries — most notably the national oil company PDVSA.

Although many criticize the socialist policies of Venezuela, the crisis has been born of a complex network of mismanagement of currency, dropping oil prices, authoritarian political crackdown, and rampant corruption. As the crisis intensifies and the Venezuela poverty rate continues to rise, the urgency of aid and comprehensive political reform increases.

Jeffery Harrell

Photo: Pixabay

Education in VenezuelaThe 33rd largest nation in the world, Venezuela prides itself on maintaining a thriving educational system. As of 2017, the nation boasted a 96.3 percent literacy rate, with a nearly equal distribution between men and women. Though education in Venezuela has recently suffered as a result of the current political upheaval taking place in the country, the country has also made incredible strides over the past few decades.

Providing students with free and compulsory education, Venezuela’s education system is maintained by its Ministry of Education. This dedication to providing all students with access to schooling has resulted in substantial increases in primary education. Between 1970 and 2015, the rate of primary school enrollment rose from 1.77 million children to approximately 3.5 million. Additionally, 93.1 percent of all female school-aged children are enrolled in school, indicating the substantial emphasis on deconstructing gender disparities and promoting overall equality.

Per a 2010 UNESCO report, the nation’s Education for all Development Index (EDI) has increased substantially over the past ten years. The EDI measures educational progress based on universal primary education, adult literacy, gender equality, and student survival rate to grade 5. From 1999 to 2007, the nation’s results increased by 5.1 percent; over the next two years, they rose by 2.4 percent. This upward trend not only underscores the ways in which education in Venezuela strives to be inclusive and accessible; it also places the nation at 59th out of 128 countries in terms of EDI, a significant jump from its former ranking of 64th.

Education in Venezuela is structured around the “diversified education” program, which culminates in the 9th grade. The diversified education program gives students the opportunity to choose between studying either the humanities or the sciences throughout the next two years of their high school career. Upon graduation, they then can select college majors based specifically on their high school paths.

The nation’s unique system of higher education also illustrates the significance that schooling holds for Venezuelans. Home to nearly 100 colleges and universities, a million students currently study for free. Technical institutions require three years, whereas universities require that students remain enrolled for five years. The largest college in the nation is the Central University of Venezuela, which was declared a World Heritage Site in 2000. The university offers courses in topics ranging from the humanities, communications and law to medicine, engineering and veterinary sciences.

Clearly, education in Venezuela plays a crucial role in defining and shaping the cultural and social experiences that both young people and adults alike undergo throughout their lives. Ultimately, through continued foreign support for these programs, the nation’s schooling systems will continue to perform successfully.

Emily Chazen

Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate of Venezuela
Venezuela, once expected to be one of the richest countries in South America, has been crippled by socialist dictators and now suffers from widespread poverty. In fact, 82% of the population lives in poverty. With the largest oil reserves in the world, Venezuela’s economy has become solely dependent on oil.

Venezuela has relied on high oil prices to bolster their exports and pay for importing basic goods, including food and medicine. However, with the price of oil dropping dramatically in the last few years, Venezuela’s economy has taken a major hit and caused drastic inflation. As inflation skyrocketed and political turmoil brewed, investors and businesses drained out of the country.

Currently, Venezuela leads the world with the highest inflation. In December of 2016, it reached a high of 800% inflation and has not significantly decreased since. According to the LA Times, it cost $150 to buy a dozen eggs in Venezuela in 2016. This hyperinflation has caused Venezuela’s currency, the Bolivar Fuerte, to depreciate. This has caused the poverty rate of Venezuela to jump to more than 80%.

 

Poverty in Venezuela

 

The face of poverty in Venezuela is also changing. With such a staggeringly high poverty rate, poverty now affects citizens with degrees who cannot find jobs and more urban people, in addition to the already rural poor.

Long lines at supermarkets have developed as people seek the most basic and necessary means of survival. According to CNBC, Venezuelans are eating two or fewer meals a day and around three-fourths of the population have watched their weight decrease throughout the years.

In 2016, President Nicolas Maduro increased the minimum wage by 40%. With inflation, this means that citizens who receive minimum wage earn just $67 a month. The explosive poverty rate and lack of proper government response have prompted protests, as this issue is now being seen as a clear violation of human rights.

However, opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez, his wife, Lilian Tintori and Capriles Radonski acknowledge the situation and have been fighting for a better Venezuela. A Venezuela with democratic power, basic goods and luxuries everyone can afford, a Venezuela with jobs for everyone, lower crime rates and better health care.

The high poverty rate in Venezuela has reached the attention of the world. Raising awareness has been part of finding hope for Venezuela. The hashtag #SOSVenezuela has been used over the last few years to protest corruption and has acted as a rallying cry to bring global attention to the people affected by Venezuela’s dire political situation.

Francis Hurtado

Photo: Google