The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela continues to manifest in widespread poverty and chronic shortages of food, medicine and other basic necessities. According to the preliminary results of the National Survey of Living Conditions (ENCOVI)—a household survey carried out by three leading Venezuelan universities—in 2020, 94% of respondents reported that their income was insufficient to cover the cost of living, and 80% of respondents received food assistance. The impact of the economic crisis has been magnified by the collapse of the country’s public infrastructure and services. In 2019, four major national blackouts occurred, leaving the majority of the country without electricity for several days. The power disruptions, coupled with medicine and equipment shortages, have had severe negative consequences on health.
In November 2019, Convite and HelpAge International conducted a survey with 903 elderly people from the states of Bolivar, Lara and Miranda. Of those surveyed, 75% reported that health facilities do not have medicines available. More than 60% of older people noted that though they should be on medications, affordability and availability were the main barriers for non-compliance. Additionally, 30% of older people do not have access to health services, while 64% reported that health services, when available, were too expensive. More than 70% of the elderly surveyed reported having one or more non-communicable diseases that required medication. In addition to lack of medications and equipment, the humanitarian crisis has led to one of the largest forced displacements in the western hemisphere. As a result, there is a shortage of specialists who can provide essential services and care.
The UN Refugee Agency reports that there are more than 4 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants worldwide, with the vast majority migrating to other countries within Latin America and the Caribbean. In Colombia, the Venezuelan migrant population has increased from fewer than 39,000 people in 2015 to approximately 1.4 million as of February 2020, according to the Ministry of Health (MOH). Of the 1.4 million, only 442,462 (253,575 families) are registered within the country. The MOH has reported that the majority (71%) of migrants are adults between the ages of 18 and 59 years old, with children and adolescents representing 27%. The majority of migrants now reside in Norte de Santander (18.6%), followed by La Guajira (16.9%), Bogota (9.8%) and Atlantico (9.7%).
The influx of Venezuelan refugees to Colombia, coupled with ongoing clashes between armed groups along the Venezuelan border and Pacific Coast, increases needs and complicates access to essential services—including healthcare—and labor markets. Violent clashes between armed groups fighting for control of land and illicit crop production continue to force displacements throughout Colombia and remain a major humanitarian concern. The most affected areas in Colombia include the departments of Antioquia, Chocó, Nariño, Valle del Cauca and Cauca on the Pacific coast, and Norte de Santander on the border with Venezuela, where the majority of Venezuelan migrants have relocated.