UNICEF Bolivia Humanitarian Situation Report No. 1 (Reporting Period: 9 to 25 November 2019)
• After serious questionings to the integrity of the results of the presidential elections held in Bolivia on 20 October, demonstrations and violent clashes erupted throughout the country. On 10 November, the President and Vice President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, and the President and the First Vice President of Senate resigned. The second Vice President, Jeanine Añez, assumed on 12 November the Presidency of the Senate and the Presidency of the Plurinational State of Bolivia for a transition period before calling new elections.
• During the following days, protests escalated into broader demonstrations and strikes. Barricades, and violent clashes between citizens, the police and Armed Forces, erupted throughout the country, but with higher intensity in main cities such as La Paz, El Alto, Cochabamba, Sacaba, Punata, Montero, Warnes and Yapacani. Vandalism included burning of private homes, public offices, police modules, and 64 public transport buses.
• About 960,000 children have been exposed to violence and social conflict, impacting their emotional wellbeing. At least 21 children and adolescents have been injured during clashes. Two adolescents remain in detention from a total of 47 arrested during confrontations. Approximately 5,350 vulnerable children have been at risk of food, water and medicine shortage; out of them, 1,3501 have been exposed to violence in the streets.
• Main cities have been under siege by supporters of the MAS (former ruling party), limiting the provision of food, medicine and fuel.
• On November 23, the points of the agreement reached at the end of the dialogue that took place in recent weeks were presented. It was requested to UN in Bolivia to increase the activities to reach the most vulnerable populations and to contribute to a peaceful resolution of the crisis and a transparent, credible, and inclusive electoral process.
• On 24 November, a special law for new elections was enacted, and an agreement was reached for a law on “guaranties” for politicians and social leaders who feel persecuted. Blockades are being lifted gradually, and fuel and food are starting to reach main cities. There are still some sectors that do not endorse the agreements, and even though a sense of normalcy is coming back to the country, the situation is still fragile.
• With UNICEF's support, 33 Children’s Welfare Offices receive technical assistance to recover lost data and case management information, elaborate contingency plans and strengthen their resilience capacities.
• Guidance materials for parents were disseminated to ensure learning continuity while some schools remained closed, as well as a teacher’s manual to provide psychosocial support activities as schools reopen.
• Through UNICEF-supported activities, around 50,000 children received care and emotional support from family members, who received information through messages in Spanish, Quechua and Aymara languages, and around 100,000 people are informed about the risks of involving children in political demonstrations. In addition, 56 Venezuelan child migrants and their families receive emotional support and basic needs.
• A psychosocial support guide was developed for families with young children affected by social conflicts, which includes orientations on care, support, and playing activities.
Situation in Numbers
21 children and adolescents injured during conflicts
804 people injured during conflicts
33 People died during conflicts
53 people currently detained from a total of 1511 initially arrested
2 adolescents currently detained from a total of 47 initially arrested (Fiscalía General del Estado)
Source: Ombudsman’s Office, 'Afectación a derechos en conflicto elecciones 2019', accessed on 21 November 2019. https://www.defensoria.gob.bo/ contenido/afectacion-aderechos-en-conflictoelecciones-2019
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
On 9 November, different police units in the country started a mutiny defending citizens from attacks and vandalism in the main cities (La Paz, El Alto, Cochabamba and around Santa Cruz). Most of the police units in the country and the armed forces announced that they were united and would not fight civilians. The President, on the other hand, called for urgent dialogue with the most relevant political parties and invited the UN and the Church to participate. The political parties declined the call.
In the aftermath of the OAS's report - which questioned the integrity of the results of the election on 20 October - on 10 November, President Evo Morales declared that new elections would be held, and the Country's electoral council replaced. However, just hours later, the president resigned and sought political asylum in Mexico. He left the Country on 11 November with Vice President Alvaro Garcia and the Ministry of Health Gabriela Montaño. Most members of the Ministerial Cabinet resigned, including some sub-national authorities (departmental governors and municipal mayors), representatives in the Legislative Assembly (among them the President and the first Vice President of the Senate and the President of the Chamber of Deputies) and authorities responsible for state enterprises.
After the resignation of the President, the second Vice President of Senate, Jeanine Añez, assumed the Presidency of the senate camera, and in this faculty the Presidency of the Plurinational State of Bolivia for a transition period before calling new elections.
Protests triggered by the establishment of the interim government, led by groups related to the MAS party, especially in territories that have a high number of supporters, such as the city of El Alto and the departments of Cochabamba and Oruro. Ten days after the installation of the new transition government, two events stand out due to the large number of deaths and injuries causing consternation.
Negotiations initiated between the new government and the opposition for calling new elections generated intense political activity between the new government and the MAS assembly members, and the parties that participated in the annulled elections.
Main cities have been under siege, preventing the entry of food and gasoline, as a response to the new political situation. The availability of some basic products decreased mainly in La Paz and El Alto, so the population reacted stocking food, generating speculation, and increases in the prices of various consumer products.
UNICEF is in regular contact with Child Protection partners to monitor the situation. As of 21 November, the impact of conflict on children is as follows:
• About 960,000 children have been exposed to violence and social conflict, impacting their emotional wellbeing . At least 21 children and adolescents have been injured during clashes.
• Approximately 5,350 vulnerable children are at risk of food, water and medicine shortage; out of them, 1,3505 are particularly exposed to abuse and violence in the streets.
• Four Children Welfare Offices (DNA) have been destroyed, leaving about 313,000 children without protection services.
• Two adolescents remain in detention from a total of 47 arrested during confrontations.
• The risk for girls to be exploited in commercial sexual violence is increasing due to police withdrawal from exploitation sites.
With regards to access to education, a total of 1,393 schools have been closed for different periods of time due to security risks, such as confrontations or blockades, or due to lack of transportations means, in particular in certain areas of La Paz, Cochabamba, Potosi, Sucre and Santa Cruz. As a result, education continuity was compromised, affecting around 1 million pre-school, primary and secondary school-age children. Schooling has resumed since the week of 18 November, except in the department of La Paz and some areas within the department of Cochabamba. A new Education Minister was appointed on 18 November, and announced that the school year will be maintained, with the necessary reorganization of the school calendar in various education districts.
Several schools were directly affected by violence. On 11 November, a major school in Cochabamba was attacked by conflicting parties, students were evacuated, and the school infrastructure suffered damages. On 15 November, two preschools in the city center of La Paz were affected by dynamite explosions which broke all the windows. No children or teachers were present in the school during the event.
With regards to Early Childhood Development (ECD) Services, activities were suspended in 118 child care centers (78 in El Alto and 40 in La Paz), leaving 4,463 children without access to these services.
The provision of essential health care services continues throughout the country. Nonetheless, in conflict zones in Cochabamba (Chapare) and El Alto (Senkata), there is a lack of supplies, difficulties for the personnel to reach the health units, and limitations to transfer patients by ambulance, due to fuel shortages and road blockages.
On November 23, representatives of the UN Nations, the Episcopal Conference, and the European Union presented the points of the agreement reached at the end of the dialogue that took place in recent weeks. Commitments include working through dialogue and support efforts to prevent and overcome conflict, particularly in areas of the country most affected by violence. It was also decided to increase the activities of the United Nations in Bolivia, to reach the most vulnerable populations, and to contribute for a peaceful resolution of the crisis and a transparent, credible and inclusive electoral process.
On November 24, a special law for new elections was enacted, and an agreement was reached for a law on “guaranties” for politicians and social leaders who feel persecuted. Blockades are being lifted progressively, and fuel and food are finally reaching the main cities. There are still some sectors that do not endorse the agreements, and even though a sense of normalcy is coming back to the country, the situation is still fragile.