We Must Help Children Affected by the Venezuelan Crisis

“For any economic indicator that you look at in Venezuela, it looks like a country in war: no access to basic medicine, lack of food, people dying from preventable diseases.” – Dany Bahar, economist at the Brookings Institution’s Global Economy and Development program.

Not so long ago, Venezuela was known as the wealthiest democracy in South America. But in 2014, this beautiful nation began a startling collapse due to a loss of oil revenue and political turmoil. Soon, almost 32 million Venezuelans were unable to afford food, and hospitals were limited in resources and essentials, like soap and antibiotics. Many Venezuelan children were fighting for their lives without the help of modern medicine or preventive measures. According to government data, infant mortality increased by 30% in 2016 alone.

In 2017, the situation was so severe that countless Venezuelan families and children lost an average of more than 19 pounds in weight. In March 2019, a UN report estimated that 94% of Venezuelan children lived in poverty. Another recent study conducted by the Catholic aid organization Cáritas found that 35% of children were suffering from chronic malnutrition and had lived with nutritional deficiencies for at least five years.

Treatment of Refugees

To seek better lives for their children, more than 5.2 million Venezuelans have left their home country. A report by UNHCR claimed that an estimated 5,000 people leave Venezuela every day. Brazil and Peru have accepted thousands of Venezuelan migrants, but Colombia currently hosts the largest number of Venezuelans.

However, according to a New York Times article, many refugees are running out of time to find refuge.  “Chile is now demanding visas and passports from Venezuelan refugees; most of them lack both,” the article said. “Ecuador, an important pass-through country, now also requires a visa for entry. Peru, with 860,000 Venezuelan migrants, remains relatively hospitable, but has also begun to institute restrictions. Mexico harasses them at airports and land border crossings.”

Even those who find refuge in another country usually end up living in inhumane conditions. A recent Save the Children report detailed how many families have been forced to sleep in abandoned buildings, informal camps or even on the street. Similarly, a UNHCR report explained how refugee camps in Colombia are overcrowded and low on resources. Many people, especially children, have dealt with heat-stroke and dehydration due to a lack of clean drinking water. Furthermore, there have been increased reports of xenophobia, discrimination and violence against Venezuelan children and families located in host communities.

Take Action Today

As illustrated by Save the Children, you can help by donating to multiple organizations who are currently helping these individuals, such as UNICEF, UNHCR, and Save the Children. You can also help by spreading awareness of this issue by sharing this post and other information on your social media platforms. There is no easy solution for the Venezuelan crisis, but showing compassion and care towards the families and children affected by it is always a good place to start.

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Maya is a rising Junior at Ossining High School. She is a student advocate for various programs and is highly passionate about social justice.