The toll on society and on children worsens, as the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela endures its seventh year of economic contraction aggravated by hyperinflation, political tensions, sanctions and increasing violence. The pandemic has intensified this situation. In 2022, UNICEF will foster a multi-sectoral approach and geographic convergence in vulnerable urban and border locations. Integrated services for children and adolescents will be promoted, focusing on health, nutrition, safe water, sanitation and hygiene, while facilitating child protection services, including gender-based violence prevention and response. Vaccines’ cold chain strengthening will be supported. Education access and retention will be promoted, as well as the school as a platform for other services, including food, safe water and psychosocial support. Community engagement will be strengthened, for instance through the community-based management of acute malnutrition approach. UNICEF requires US$317.2 million to meet the humanitarian needs of Venezuelan children through life-saving support in an increasingly challenging operational environment.
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION AND NEEDS
As the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela endures its seventh consecutive year of economic contraction aggravated by hyperinflation, political tensions, sanctions and increasing violence, the toll on society and children worsens. The shocks of COVID-19 have intensified this situation, leaving thousands of children in need of education, immunization, medicines, nutrition, safe water and protection.
Decreasing oil production and tightening sanctions have triggered a loss of income and employment. Salaries are unable to keep pace with hyperinflation and estimates suggest that Venezuelans would require 136 times the minimum wage of US$1.71 per month to access a basic food basket.
Over 5.7 million people have emigrated, resulting in a staggering loss of professionals, including health workers and teachers. Simultaneously, many others have moved within the country, to escape violence or for economic purposes, including mining, with increased protection risks, such as trafficking and sexual exploitation and abuse.
Before the pandemic, infrastructure and services, including healthcare, water and electricity, were barely functioning, food and medicine shortages were frequent and fuel was scarce.
COVID-19 restrictions and increased difficulty accessing fuel have resulted in higher transportation costs and subsequent soaring food prices. The cost of food increased 2,190 per cent in May 2021 over the same month in 2020.
An outbreak of yellow-fever is ongoing, and other vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles and polio, are at risk of re-emerging. Early pregnancies, irregular antenatal consultations, infectious diseases and pregnancy or childbirth complications threaten the survival of newborns and mothers, particularly among indigenous groups. Out of 61,235 pregnant women accessing antenatal services between January and September 2021, 55 per cent did not have regular check-ups, and up to 8 per cent of newborns suffered from low birthweight.
Additionally, UNICEF estimates that 116,596 children could suffer from global acute malnutrition in 2022, following the trend observed in screening activities carried out by UNICEF in 2021.
Three quarters of households experience irregular water service provision, while 8.4 per cent do not have access, exacerbating health and nutrition problems.
Schools have been partially closed for 63 weeks, preventing 6.9 million pre-primary through secondary-level students (3.4 million girls) from accessing in-person instruction, and other vital benefits, including school feeding.
Removed from the school environment, children, particularly adolescent girls, have been exposed to increased risks of mistreatment, violence, exclusion and separation from caregivers, as well as early and unwanted pregnancies.
Venezuela has an adolescent fertility rate of 85.3, one of the highest in the region where the average is 61.