• The complex humanitarian situation in Venezuela continued in 2021, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, clashes in border states and heavy rains that led to more than 54,000 people being affected by flooding and landslides in 10 states. With the generous support from donors, between January and December, UNICEF reached around 1 million children with essential services and life-saving support.
• Timely and appropriate treatment was provided to 15,786 children with global acute malnutrition (GAM), including 11,554 children with moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) and 4,232 children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM), and 18,497 underweight pregnant and lactating women (PLW).
• UNICEF supported the strengthening of the cold chain system to improve vaccines’ appropriate storage and transportation, and together with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), coordinated Venezuela’s access to the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility.
• In partnership with the Ministry of Education (MoE), UNICEF led successfully the reopening of schools for face-to-face education nationwide. 304,408 children received education materials and 110,272 children were provided with nutritious meals, in an effort to promote a safe return to school, continued attendance and retention.
• UNICEF responded to vulnerable communities impacted by floods in Apure and Merida states in August through the provision of health and water and sanitation assistance, benefitting more than 50,000 inhabitants.
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
The harmful effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have disproportionally affected children throughout 2021, threatening child survival and health, increasing the risk of acute malnutrition, limiting access to life-saving vaccines and antiretroviral treatment, challenging school enrolment and retention, as well as mounting the risks of violence, exploitation and abuse.
During the first half of 2021, UNICEF and partners reported displacements of people (caminantes) originating from different parts of the country who walked hundreds of kilometers to cross the border through states bordering with Colombia and Brazil, including increased numbers of children, adolescents, and single mothers. Similarly, COVID-19 restrictions introduced in neighboring countries caused some Venezuelan migrants to return, resulting on a mixed flux of migrants across different border locations. Violent clashes in the state of Apure worsened the humanitarian situation on the ColombiaVenezuela border during the first quarter of 2021, forcing the displacement of around 5,000 Venezuelans into Colombian territory. The internal and external movements exposed vulnerable groups such as separated and unaccompanied children, PLW, adolescents, and people without legal identity documents, to additional protection risks, including gender-based violence (GBV) and risks of human trafficking.
Throughout the year, gasoline shortages and scarcity of diesel directly impacted both public transportation as well as transportation of goods and services. Interruptions in the electrical system, particularly in the western part of the country (Zulia, Trujillo, Falcon, and Lara states), negatively impacted services delivery, including internet connectivity, affecting distance education.
Heavy rains in July and August caused rivers to overflow and landslides, affecting more than 54,000 people in ten2 out of 24 states, with communities in Merida state being the most affected.3 As a result, on 25 August, the national government declared a 90-day emergency decree for Merida, Apure, Bolivar, Yaracuy, and Zulia. The United Nations system, together with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), local authorities, and communities of the affected areas, provided immediate lifesaving support to meet urgent needs in food, health, WASH, infrastructure, roads, essential services, housing and security.
In October 2021, the main official Venezuela-Colombia border posts opened for the first time since February 2019, allowing commerce channels between both countries. Similarly, schools reopened on 25th October for presential education after more than 18 months of being partially closed as a COVID-19 containment measure.
Thought the year, according to the national authorities, Venezuela registered 446,427 COVID-19 cases and 5,348 deaths, with a trend of over 1,000 patients per day. In late December 2021, the trend of new infections raised sharply, as the government confirmed the first cases of the omicron variant in the Capital District, Miranda, and Lara states. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and PAHO, by the end of the year, more than 30 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in the country and approximately 11.6 million people had completed the two-dose schedule.