Venezuelan Crisis: What You Need to Know
Thousands of displaced Venezuelans are pouring across the border with Colombia each day, escaping extreme food and medicine shortages and exponential inflation. Project HOPE is on the ground in Colombia to support the country's strained health care system. Get the facts about the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and learn more about how to help.
What You Need to Know
The Latest Developments
March 5, 2019: Project HOPE is at the border treating patients
Four Project HOPE doctors treated 179 patients with injuries as a result of the end of February violence at the border, a violence that saw the destruction of humanitarian aid shipments destined to vulnerable Venezuelans. Project HOPE doctors provided a surge capacity support to screening centers at the border, based on a request from the Colombian Health Authorities.
Project HOPE medical doctors have been providing staff surge support and provision of essential drugs at two of Jorge Cristo Sahiums health outposts in border towns: La Parada and Santa Barbara since December 17, 2018. Doctors are reporting main health issues continue to be respiratory tract infections, diarrheal disease, gender-based violence cases and skin diseases related to lack of basic water, sanitation and hygiene conditions.
As additional streets protests are being planned, Project HOPE is concerned about additional casualties resulting from clashes between the government of Venezuela and protestors. The lack of medicines, medical supplies and personnel to handle those casualties could render the situation even more dire.
Project HOPE calls on all parties not to politicize humanitarian assistance and requests that all civilians have unhindered access to humanitarian aid. As an international aid organization, Project HOPE remains neutral and is committed to providing humanitarian assistance based on needs alone.
February 6, 2019: Crisis in Venezuela Escalates; Humanitarian Relief Imperative
Political uncertainty in Venezuela is contributing to the Western Hemisphere’s worst humanitarian disaster in years. Venezuelans are running out of food and have no means to buy more, hospitals often lack medicines and basic supplies and we are seeing increasingly alarming reports of malnutrition amongst the children of Venezuela.
As political instability in Venezuela grows, we at Project HOPE believe people caught in the middle must have unhindered access to humanitarian assistance. Humanitarian aid must not be politicized. It should be available to every individual in need, regardless of where they reside or their political affiliations. Providing humanitarian assistance is not promoting a political view; it is an ethical and moral imperative, and a privilege we share as humans, to uphold the basic human rights and dignity of our sisters and brothers, and to address the emergency needs of any human struggling in dire circumstances.
Venezuelans should have safe and uninhibited access to humanitarian aid immediately.
Project HOPE is a humanitarian organization with no political or religious affiliations. Our focus is saving lives and relieving suffering. Please support Project HOPE’s relief efforts for the people of Venezuela.
A report from the field, Dr. Atilio Rivera-Vasquez shares what he is seeing
Dr. Rivera-Vasquez joined the Project HOPE Colombia team on November 12, 2018, and has been on the ground working as our Colombia team lead and Health Technical Expert, directly overseeing health sector activities. He reports that conditions such as malaria and dengue – not seen in Colombia in years – have made a resurgence because people are sleeping outside with no nets or blankets and the lack of clean water and sanitation has caused diarrheal diseases to spread. Measles, skin diseases and respiratory tract infections from the lack of shelter during the rainy season are also becoming more common.
Women and girls are the most at risk as maternal deaths skyrocket due to complicated pregnancies and lack of antenatal care, anemia controls or Caesarian sections. Major concerns also include rises in sexual exploitation, gender-based violence (GBV) and HIV. With health facilities already struggling to meet the needs of drastically increasing patient populations, there is a widespread lack of training among health providers in appropriate and confidential GBV case management and clinical management of rape, putting these survivors at higher risk of neglect, abuse, and disease.
“There is a surge in the number of children with measles – and subsequently severe malnutrition. Measles can lead to death when left untreated. I’ve seen this in the Congo, but I haven’t seen it this bad since then.”
The Venezuelan people bear the burden of this economic and social collapse with access to basic services and protection becoming increasingly limited. Project HOPE is well-positioned to provide solutions and is actively working in border towns in Colombia to support the health needs of displaced Venezuelans.
“I have been in so many countries with refugees, but I’m astonished that this is happening in my own country,” says Dr. Rivera-Vasquez.
About the Venezuelan Crisis
The conditions in Venezuela represent a fast developing crisis. Deteriorating economic and political conditions in Venezuela over the last four years have caused severe shortages of food and medicine and have stretched the local health care system. This humanitarian disaster has hit such critical levels that it has triggered a mass exodus of Venezuelans pouring across the borders of neighboring countries including Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, straining communities and local health services in those countries.
So far, 2.3 million people have fled Venezuela since 2014.
The political turmoil has made life for many Venezuelans all but impossible. Soaring hyperinflation has made basic food and health care unaffordable. Every day, more than 3,000 Venezuelans, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists, have had to pack up their belongings and have been fleeing their country in droves as the economy collapses. Without even enough money to pay for a bus ticket, some Venezuelans are walking Colombia’s long highways through the mountains to destinations hundreds of miles away in Ecuador and Peru.
The crisis affecting Venezuela is the largest migration in modern history to affect the Americas.
Project HOPE is there
In September 2018, HOPE employee and registered nurse Teresa Narvaez travelled to Colombia and Ecuador to prepare for Project HOPE’s response to the Venezuelan crisis. While on the ground she spoke with many Venezuelan families who made the difficult choice to leave their homes in search of a new future.
I met families grasping for hope and crying children who had endured long journeys on foot – some with no food – in extreme weather conditions.
Our Team is on the Ground
Later that month, Project HOPE deployed an emergency response team to the border city of Cúcuta, Colombia to address the dangerous health conditions that the worst humanitarian crisis in the Western Hemisphere is causing. “Health care, food and nutrition assistance, vaccines and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) support are among the most urgent humanitarian needs of Venezuelans, returnees and host communities in border regions,” said Chris Skopec, Project HOPE Executive Vice President, responsible for Global Health and Disaster Response Programs. Our aim is to support and build up health services in the area, connect people with needed healthcare services, and improve access to medicines and doctors.
HOPE is Supporting the Colombian Health Care System
The largest number of displaced Venezuelans has fled into and through Colombia. As a result, the Colombian health care system is particularly strained. Colombian authorities report the number of Venezuelan patients at hospitals in Cúcuta has increased 60% or more. Project HOPE is coordinating with Erasmo Meoz hospital, a major hospital in Cúcuta, Colombia, to provide surge support of Colombian medical practitioners, while investigating additional opportunities for humanitarian assistance. Medical staff are caring for increasingly large amounts of patients. The rooms at Erasmo Meoz Hospital are filled to maximum capacity, and even the hallways are lined with beds to care for as many patients as possible.
“There will be a breaking point very soon…it is very evident that they are overstretched. In some hospitals, over 60% of patients are now from Venezuela.”
HOPE is Working at Health Outposts near Busy Border Crossing
Major hospitals and health outposts near the Simón Bolívar International Bridge, one of the most active border crossing points between Venezuela and Colombia, are being overwhelmed with the rapid influx of Venezuelan migrants and refugees in need of health services. For many, the health outposts are the first places encountered for health services; however, there is an increasing shortage in the number of health personnel at the health outposts as the number of patients and demand for care continues to rise.
Project HOPE is coordinating the provision of four local general practitioners (GPs) to provide health care through two of Jorge Cristo Sahium Hospital’s outposts in La Parada and Santa Barbara. HOPE’s GPs began seeing patients on December 17th, increasing each health post’s capacity to see an additional 32 patients a day. This is significant as before the outposts had no choice but to turn away 50 to 60 patients daily. By reducing the burden on staff at the health outposts, we are helping to minimize the corresponding strain on hospitals by minimizing referrals and the number of patients arriving via the emergency department.
Our Team is Continuously Evaluating Ongoing and Developing Needs
Project HOPE consultant in Colombia, Adib Fletcher, has met with healthcare and government officials and speaking with with directors at the Erasmo Meoz Hospital. Especially the hospital’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology is overwhelmed, as Colombia has become a destination for Venezuelan women seeking to give birth in a safe location with the supported of a trained attendant. “Antenatal care has [all but] ceased in Venezuela. A large majority [of pregnant women entering Colombia from Venezuela] have not had antenatal checkups. Many are in their second or third trimester and haven’t gone through the type of regular checkups a woman would receive if the system was running properly.” Says Adib.
“We saw one particular lady, I could tell she was probably between four to six months pregnant. She came out in tears, crying. They had told her that her baby had died. It was heartbreaking to see how devastated they were, and a lot of that has to do with the absolute lack of care available to them.”
We are there. But we can’t do it alone. Your help is needed!
Please help meet the emergency health needs of Venezuelans families with your gift to our Venezuela crisis fund today.
What is Happening in Venezuela?
Why are people leaving?
Can you imagine being forced to take what you can carry and flee your country only to be faced with chaos in the streets, disease and food shortages?
An economic collapse
Venezuela is one of the most oil-rich countries in the world. For much of the last three decades, its oil wealth has allowed the country to flourish and spend heavily on behalf of its people. Unfortunately, as oil became the primary source of income for Venezuela, other industries suffered, the government borrowed heavily to pay for widespread social programs it could not afford, and Venezuela’s people became increasingly dependent on the government for subsidized food, water and medicine.
Then the price of oil began to collapse, dropping from $100 per barrel in 2014 to as low as $26 per barrel in 2016.1 The Venezuelan government could no longer afford to pay back its large debts abroad or for its large social programs, upon which many depended for survival.
As funds ran short, Venezuelans began losing their jobs and sources of income. Importers no longer had the funds to import luxury goods and soon struggled to import staples, such as food. Electrical plants could not afford to keep running, causing widespread and lengthy blackouts in parts of the country.
Getting laid off at your job is a terrible feeling. Getting laid off when your company closes down, can make it challenging to find a new job. What can you do when companies across your city, region and country are closing left and right because they can’t afford to stay open. What options do you have to find employment and where will your next meal come from when the little you have saved up, is spent?
As the economic enveloped Venezuela, the value of the Venezuelan Bolivar began to fall. By the end of 2018, the year-over-year inflation rate is expected to be as high as 1,000,000%. This means that if something cost just 1Bs at the beginning of 2018, by the end it would cost 10,000Bs. Suitcases have been used to carry enough money around to simply by groceries.
In August of 2018, a chicken cost 14.6 million Bs. Using 1,000 bolivar notes the paper money would weigh more than 32 pounds and could be stacked almost more than 4 feet high.2 For those who have held onto their jobs, their paychecks may not be worth enough, by the time they collect and spend them, to buy basic goods.
Some employers have begun to pay their employees in tangible goods, such as eggs, instead of wasting time with bolivars.
What would you do if the money you had became worth less and less? How would you feed your family? How would you afford medical care?
No food, medicines, or services to fulfill basic needs
As dependence on oil and food subsidies hurt the agricultural markets of Venezuela, many became dependent on imports of food. With Venezuelan money no longer valuable buying food abroad became increasingly difficult and food shortages quickly swept through the country. Food began to rot as indiscriminate rolling blackouts made refrigeration impossible. Starvation and malnutrition first gripped Venezuela’s most vulnerable, but soon spread to the middle class.
Doctors, realizing the value of their skills, began leaving Venezuela in large numbers to find employment abroad and potentially send money home. With the exodus of doctors, many hospitals are running at limited capacity and have needed to close whole departments.
Patients are increasingly required to find not just the staff but the equipment to go through medical treatments as complex as surgery.3 Without medical care, once controlled diseases, such as TB and AIDS have begun to rapidly spread through the population, and giving birth has become an increasingly dangerous undertaking.
More than 22,000 doctors have left Venezuela since the start of the crisis, leaving just 1 out of every 10 hospitals nationwide operating at full capacity.6 Many hospitals have needed to close whole departments as the shortage of doctors, nurses and medical technicians spreads. The health system is further plagued by growing shortages of medicines and medical supplies, spurring Venezuelans to flee the country in search of medical care.
Health workers have recorded a 50% increase of measles and diphtheria among the 1.1 million Venezuelans who have fled to Colombia.
How would this change your life if you were unable to obtain basic food and health care?
Violence in Venezuela’s cities has been a common occurrence for years, but as the situation has grown more desperate, crime has increased.
In 2017, it is estimated that 73 people died from violent deaths every day in Venezuela4 due to kidnappings, robberies or targeted assassinations. In some parts of Caracas and other major cities, crime has prevented local police from protecting poor and at risk populations. Criminal gangs in Venezuela’s barrios have become more aggressive as food, clean water and medicines have grown more scarce.
If you lived in Venezuela, could you stay to face this ever growing crisis? Would you be willing to leave your home for an uncertain future?
The political turmoil has made life for many Venezuelans all but impossible. Soaring inflation has made basic food and health care affordable. Every day, up to 3,000 Venezuelans, including doctors, have had to pack up their belongings and have been fleeing their country in droves as the economy collapses.
A Difficult Decision
The dangers do not end at the border. Once across the border, Venezuelans are vulnerable to violence because of poor security conditions and find it hard to find food, medicine and shelter. Border cities, like, Cúcuta, Colombia, which have seen the highest rates of arriving Venezuelans, are now experiencing infectious disease outbreaks.
Humanitarian and medical personnel are assisting as best they can, but their efforts hampered by severe shortages of equipment, supplies and health provider skills. The increase in demand has forced hospitals to leave patients in corridors as their capacity has peaked.
You can help!
The 2018 crisis in Venezuela is taking its toll on the world’s most vulnerable. Take a moment to consider what it would be like if you had to drop everything and abandon everything you’ve ever known, just to survive? What would it be like if you only had a moment to grab just what you need to flee violence, political turmoil, hyperinflation and shortages of the necessities of life? What would you decide to bring with you, and what would you leave behind?
There are ways to help Venezuela by making a gift to fund Project HOPE’s efforts toward humanitarian aid like the Venezuelan Crisis 2018. We are acting fast to help families and children fleeing the crisis in Venezuela and we need your help.
Your generous gift will go directly to our Venezuela response 2018 fund to support our humanitarian efforts to the Venezuela crisis.
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is located on the northern coast of South America. The capital and largest city is Caracas. It is a federal presidential republic of 23 states, the Capital District and offshore islands which are its federal dependencies. Within Latin America, Venezuela is one of the most urbanized countries with most of its inhabitants living in the north. Venezuela is also among the most oil-rich countries in the world.
3 https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-latin-america-45868268/venezuela-crisis-hits-food-markets-and-a-morgue (Note: Disturbing Content)