Children and adolescents in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela are affected by a triple burden: the protracted socio-economic and political situation; the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic; and mixed migration flows across international borders.
In 2021, UNICEF will implement an integrated, multi-sectoral response through its expanded field presence, focusing on providing life-saving interventions; strengthening monitoring systems; delivering incentives to retain professionals, including health workers and teachers; enhancing mechanisms for accountability to affected populations; mainstreaming gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse; and building local capacities.
UNICEF requires US$201.8 million to meet the humanitarian needs of Venezuelan children through life-saving support for water, education and health in an increasingly challenging operational environment.
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION AND NEEDS
After six consecutive years of economic contraction, the humanitarian situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela continues to intensify, with growing hyperinflation, increased political, social and institutional tensions, weakening public services and mixed migration flows. The COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated these challenges. Children are disproportionately affected by limited access to essential goods and services such as food, immunization, medicine, medical treatment, education, water and protection.
With decreasing oil production and employment opportunities, the country has registered declines in household income, savings and consumption. Salaries are unable to keep pace with hyperinflation. Venezuelans would require 144 times the minimum wage of US$1.2 per month to access a basic needs basket of vital commodities.5 Over 5.1 million people have migrated, resulting in a staggering loss of professionals, including health workers and teachers.6 At the same time, over 120,000 migrants have returned since mid-March due to lost income abroad, increasing humanitarian needs and protection risks, including family separation and sexual exploitation and abuse.7
Before the pandemic, infrastructure and services, including water, electricity and transportation, were barely functioning and fuel shortages were frequent. COVID-19 restrictions and increased difficulty accessing fuel have further disrupted supply chains and service provision.
Vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles and diphtheria, have re-emerged; cases of tuberculosis and malaria are rising; and low immunization coverage and disruptions to health and nutrition services due to the pandemic are threatening the survival and development of children.8 Three quarters of households experience recurrent interruptions to their water services, and one quarter lack sustainable access to potable water, making COVID-19 prevention even more challenging.9
Approximately 2.3 million people are severely food insecure across the country.10 Children and pregnant and lactating women, particularly those from indigenous and adolescent groups, are disproportionately affected by food insecurity. Out of nearly 89,000 children screened in 23 states between January and August 2020, more than 4,000 were found to be acutely malnourished.11
Nearly 6.9 million pre-primary through secondary level students (3.4 million girls) have been affected by COVID-19-related school closures,12 aggravating the situation of 856,000 children who were already out of school before the outbreak.13 School closures have deprived children of life-saving interventions, such as school feeding, and increased safety threats, particularly for women and girls, including mistreatment, violence, exclusion and separation from caregivers, in an already weak protective environment.