Scores of Venezuelans leave for Columbia and Brazil, as an economic-crisis in the oil-rich South American country persists.
So dire are conditions in Venezuela that many flock to border countries mostly by foot, for food, shelter and medical care.
According to the UN, roughly 800 Venezuelans flee to Brazil a day.
“As the complex political and socio-economic situation in their country continues to worsen, arriving Venezuelans are in more desperate need of food, shelter and health care. Many also need international protection,” says William Spindler, spokesperson for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland.
In February, UN General Antonio Guterres met with Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos, and other officials in Bogotá to discuss the arrival of about 550,000 Venezuelan refugees. Now, the UN prepares to budget $58 million for emergency humanitarian assistance to Brazil.
Since the 2016 plummet of oil prices, hyperinflation plagues Venezuela, leaving millions without food security. Along with the ongoing political turmoil which has opposition parties alleging that the country’s current administration is more of a dictatorship, Venezuela sits in a highly unstable climate.
Food Shortage Worsens
While the country works to develop an oil-backed cryptocurrency that raised $735 million in one day, the most immediate issue is a chronic food shortage. Currently, the average adult citizen has lost 20 pounds. In Venezuela, soup kitchens and emaciated bodies are the norm. Food scavenging in dump sites and other extremes measures such as absconding zoo animals for food have been reported. Venezuleans living the poorest areas face the harshest realities
Acute malnutrition in children rapidly grows and infant mortality shoots up with 10.5 per cent to 13 per cent between 2004-06 and 2014-2016. In Venezuela’s most populated states, reports of malnourished children increased by 56 percent. According the New York Times, a scarcity of condoms and birth control has caused in increase in sterilization.
In a starved society, preventable diseases are deadly. To worsen matters, the 31,000 Cuban doctors who provide medical care for Venezuelans have been defecting since 2012, right before the death of socialist president Hugo Chávez in 2013.
This month, the country was scheduled to hold presidential elections in voting that had been postponed before. President Nicolas Maduro pushed back the elections again to May. Nonetheless, Columbia and Brazil keep their borders open to welcome refugees.