Venezuela has a population of 28 million. It is also home to 20% of the world’s natural oil reserves. However, when global oil prices crashed in 2014, the Venezuelan economy suffered, and financial reserves depleted.
Since then, more than 6 million Venezuelans have left the country to escape the socio-economic crisis where there is a serious lack of essentials like drinkable water, food, and medicine. Families who did not leave need extra support so that children and young people can grow up healthily.
SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it, in Venezuela since 1978.
When the Venezuelan economy suffered from plummeting global oil exports in 2014, social service initiatives to solve poverty ground to a halt. Soaring inflation rates made access to necessities impossible. A black market grew, and families resorted to barter trade to exchange possessions for food and water to survive.
The COVID-19 pandemic also had a devastating effect for many families. Although the situation is slowly improving, 51% of Venezuelans are living in poverty.
Around 20% of children in Venezuela are at risk of acute malnutrition. This lack of healthy food is affecting young children most: 33% of children under the age of 2 are not meeting their growth milestones.
If children do not get enough to eat, both their mental and physical development is affected. This may have long-lasting effects. In addition, children who are malnourished often find it hard to concentrate at school, and so their education suffers too.
Venezuela has one of the world’s highest rates of crime with violent crime, the drug trade and corruption at the fore. Born out of desperate circumstance with no access to food and medical aid, people resort to theft too as a means for survival.
Drug cartels hire children to guard drug-ring territories. They lure them with basic goods like water and food. Many are also engaged as “errand personnel” to facilitate an exchange of substances. Such easy access to drugs has also fueled drug abuse among the young.