This special newsletters shows the reports that update the documentation of the Complex Humanitarian Emergency in Venezuela for the years 2019-2021, after the first documentation made in 2018. The reports are prepared by organizations that are part of HumVenezuela and Interdisciplinary Working Groups to address CHE (IGCHE) in the sectors of water and sanitation, food, education and health, nationally and in 18 states of the country.
Militarization has created conditions for abuse, hostility and the perpetration of crimes and other acts that threaten the dignity of indigenous and non-indigenous people living in the state of Amazonas. When this report was written, in March 2022, four indigenous people had just died in a confrontation with Air Force soldiers over a router they shared by mutual agreement at the Parima B post, in a town that is 440 kilometers from Puerto Ayacucho. But one day the military denied them access, the indigenous people felt let down and claimed the situation.
57% of young people did not complete middle or high school education. They drop out in 4th and 5th year and are migrating from the state. Children and adolescents are leaving their desks to go out to work and bring sustenance to their home, and those who graduate from high school have no aspiration to enter the university. This puts at risk the individual and social development of these people and the population. The dropout from high school to migrate from the country or go out to work to bring food home is 59%. They are young people who have no development opportunities. They go from a school desk to being collectors in the public transport or they dedicate themselves to collect garbage to help the family.
Elderly people with chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or bronchial asthma, cannot access treatments because the retirement pension is not enough to buy them or they are not available. Between 85% and 90% of people do not have access to the medicines they need. Diabetics who go for a blood glucose check cannot receive care because health centers do not have glucometers, or if there are, they do not have lamellae, and if they have lamellae, then there are no lancets. The medical and nursing workers are insufficient, and many specialists have left the state. Before the Covid pandemic, 90% of the health personnel were active and, after the pandemic, only 35% are still in their jobs.
Since the last quarter of 2021, it has been noted with concern that estimations of the instability of the water service are between 50% and 70%. This means that many people have to go, even by foot, to a water source or landfill, and carry the containers to their homes. The electricity outages in the states of Carabobo or Aragua affect the water service, specifically, in the municipality of Santos Michelena, because it is located at the end of the Regional System of the Center, where people have to look for water in unsafe sources.
Organized crime has grown in the last three years, especially in the south of the state. From the pranato (criminal groups led by a person who exercises territorial control, or of some mine, and whose scope of action was circumscribed to a small portion of territory) were developed structures that ended up grouped in the form of pranatos, trains and systems. The system groups several trains, and the trains turn several pranatos, which prevail today in the south of the state and control greater territorial extensions. They have absolute control of all civilian life in a locality. If an identity document is needed, one does not go to the Saime, but goes to the leader of the system. It functions as a “parastate” that has taken over civilian life.
The rights of health workers are not guaranteed. The remuneration is insignificant for the cost of living, the working conditions do not meet standards of efficiency and medical safety, and they are not protected from the pandemic and other communicable diseases. A high percentage of the staff is on vacation or takes accumulated vacations because the situation is intolerable. The staff denounces that they are in such extreme precarious conditions that they prefer to resign. Although salaries are very low, there are parallel dollar payrolls for doctors who are not governed by the same rules applied to the rest of the staff. These lists include Integral Community Doctors, graduates of Bolivarian universities.
Many people lost their jobs during the confinement, and this abrupt break from everyday life also contributed to the violence. To this are added the problems of access to food, education, lack of transport, electricity and water failures. Unemployment and problems of coexistence have led to an increase in the incorporation of children and adolescents into crime and drug use. The high cost of cable television service has meant that many families can no longer afford it and children and adolescents stay out of their homes for longer, which increases the risks of them joining criminal activities and being subjected to acts of prostitution and pedophilia.
Only 25% of the state’s population has water, and the flow is not constant. There is a gravity network and a pumped one, but only the gravity-flowing one works. At least 10 thousand families from different areas in San Juan de los Morros (Callejón Xiomara, 3 de julio, Bicentenario, Nuevo Progreso, Ezequiel Zamora, Primero de Mayo, Fidel Castro, Mahomo, Jesús Bandres and Brisas del Pariapan) face recurrent failures in the distribution of water by pipeline and only have one water tank to supply 10 communities in the city. The affected inhabitants have stated that they only receive it for three hours and that due to the deterioration of the pipes to the high areas it does not reach them. In addition to pipeline failures, there is also no investment in new water systems, which makes it difficult to meet demand. Electrical failures, which are constant, also interrupt the water service that arrives by pumping.
MAPANI organization reported that the cases of children under five in a situation of chronic malnutrition persist and have become more acute, reaching 42% with a weight and height deficit. In surveys conducted by this organization in the past two years, it has also detected an increase in depressive children and adolescents, finding ideas or thoughts of suicide due to their feelings of abandonment before the migration of one or both parents, who have gone out of the country to find work and income that provide sustenance to families, as a result of the ravages of the complex humanitarian emergency.Show more >>>
The low budget of the Ministry of Health (MPPS) was allocated during the last two years of the COVID pandemic to the acquisition of biosafety material for health centers, leaving programs for chronic conditions and vector-borne diseases without resources. This has resulted in an increase, for example, in cardiovascular diseases as well as the appearance of cases of dengue, chikungunya and zika. By overcoming the pandemic, the humanitarian health emergency will become more evident, as the real increase in a large number of unattended diseases will be shown.
Between June 2021 and March 2022, there was a 302% increase in the average number of hours without electricity. According to the announced rationing plan, cuts of four hours had been planned, but families have had between 12 and 14 hours a day without electricity. Although the interruptions were persistent during 2020 and 2021, in August 2021 the number of hours without electricity dropped considerably and, since October, it increased alarmingly due to failures in the distribution system. According to Promedehum measurements, between March 2020 and March 2021, an average of 1,623 hours were counted in which the six monitored sectors remained without electricity service; a figure that represents more than 67 days in which the inhabitants were without electricity in their homes.
There are frequent press reports that show criminal activities led by organized crime organizations and armed groups. Due to the lack of surveillance and police protection, people have been forced to shelter in their homes early. A corpse of a person killed on the street could spend up to 16 hours waiting to be lifted. In addition, the school campuses present severe problems of physical infrastructure and services. Due to this level of deterioration and the lack of teachers, the call to return to classes was not attended by all children. The crisis in education affects students and their families in equal parts, which is evident in the increasing school dropout. The number of children and adolescents who drop out of school to do jobs that allow them to buy food at home and help with other family expenses has grown rapidly. There is a greater number of street children, and more cases of prostitution among girls and adolescents, as well as domestic violence.
In the population of children and adolescents, pregnancies increased during 2020 and 2021. They are usually pregnant by people in legal age without having judicial consequences. 70% of these girls and adolescents lost their schooling. The nutritional crisis also accelerated. Food prices and low incomes make it difficult to access food. Low-income people do not have access to protein. 30% of children under the age of five have some type of malnutrition, chronic or acute. Added to this is the lack of water and basic services such as gas that also affects access to food and causes accidents due to cooking with wood.
Food shortages ceased to be the main problem in the Sucre state. Now families do not even have the financial resources to buy them. People are eating poorly or have reduced consumption, without programs that can respond to deficiencies in food quality and quantity. To cope with high food prices, families have sold goods, depriving themselves of their patrimony, in order to obtain sustenance. In the middle class sectors, garage sales have grown to be able to eat. An investigation by the Sucre State Human Rights Foundation (Incide) revealed that 90% of the households allocate almost 98% of income to food expenses. In the reports of Caritas Venezuela, the state of Sucre stands out as one of the states that have a significant number of children under the age of five in a situation of severe acute malnutrition. There are parents who take turns eating in order to not deprive their children of food.
The cost of direct gas for cooking is very high and few have these facilities. If people do not join the communal councils to be assigned the domestic gas service by cylinders, it does not reach the communities. They are required to be registered in the Patria System and there is political discrimination in the purchase of gas. The filling of the cylinder can cost up to 56 dollars, depending on the communal council to which you belong, because they are the ones who set the prices. The cylinders do not arrive with the right gas or they do not fill them completely and if they claim the issue there is no way for them to solve it. People who don’t have access have to cook with firewood.
Suicide rates have increased in children and adolescents. There was a case of a boy who committed suicide because there was no food in his house and he could not help his family. There is also child sexual exploitation. In six of the 20 municipalities of Trujillo state, especially La Ceiba and Andrés Bello, criminal gangs try to recruit children and adolescents, with the threat of rape if they resist. Acts of violence in households also increased. The parents’ frustration with the economic situation, coupled with the confinement, contributed to aggressive behavior against the youngest members of the family. There are no domestic violence prevention programs in the state and Trujillo has become a territory of human trafficking, trafficking children and adolescents, especially from indigenous communities. The extortion network operates with the complicity of officials. The State’s Service for the Protection of Children neither has a sufficient number of counselors to serve the entire state nor does it have spaces equipped to receive them.
Abusive policies of coercion or political coercion for making legitimate claims are more accentuated in rural areas. Officials of regional and local institutions intimidate and harass communities, along with groups of civilians who act against people participating in peaceful demonstrations due to the lack of water, food, fuel, gas and electricity. Members of Communal Councils and Local Supply and Production Committees (CLAP) also act in these policies, they are in control of basic services such as transport. On three occasions, a community requested medical attention for a peasant man who died due to lack of response. The family wanted to bury him in the municipal cemetery, but the officials did not allow it and called for “the full weight of the law” to be applied to them, in addition to the removal of the CLAP bags, for committing an alleged crime.
89% of the students in vulnerable communities of Maracaibo pointed out that there were no comfortable bathrooms at school to change during menstruation, 86% said that there was no regular water in the bathrooms and 12% that the water supplied did not meet quality standards to manage menstruation. In addition, 95% stated that the bathrooms were not clean and had no privacy. When it comes to measuring whether menstruation is a factor of educational inequality, 33% of the students said they had missed classes because of menstruation. In universities, 14.47% of women reported that gender stereotypes existed. Several interviewees stated that they felt invisible inside the classroom and incapable of exercising their careers.
Pollution from gold mining has unleashed an ecological tragedy in the states of Amazonas, Bolívar and Delta Amacuro. In addition to polluting their water and food sources, the villagers are used to extract gold through a new form of slavery of girls, boys, adolescents and women, both indigenous and Creole. Their lives are worth only a few “grams” of gold.
The significant reduction in food shortages, by increasing imports due to the easing of government controls on economic activity, exposed the serious problem of the destruction of the purchasing power of income to buy food, which affects 95.6% of the population. The acquisition of food is limited by the wide gap between the cost and the income of the household. The underpaid salaries or earnings barely reach 10 dollars a month, and pensions for retired people do not reach five dollars, compared to a basic food basket that costs around 250 dollars for a family of five members.
The measures against the pandemic alongside the extreme socio-economic conditions in which teachers are, with a 92% drop in salary since 2015 as well as earning just four dollars per month, caused a greater abandonment of teachers from the educational system during the distance education period, to emigrate or exercise other jobs. 32% of the vacancies have been filled by people who do not have qualifications, through the government work program for adolescents and young people (Chamba Juvenil), the recruitment of parents or representatives, militiamen or people who exercise other occupations outside teaching.
The arrival of the pandemic, in the midst of a health collapse and with severe deficiencies in surveillance and case detection, was faced with a State of Alarm and confinement measures called “quarantines”, aimed to maintaining low levels of contagion that drastically restricted mobility during 2020 and part of 2021. These strategies exacerbated the impacts of the humanitarian emergency on health, education, food, basic services and economic conditions of the population. Even when a health emergency was declared, the response to the pandemic did not have the participation of the country’s health, academic and scientific personnel. Between March and December 2020, Venezuela reported 113,562 cumulative cases and 1,028 deaths due to Covid-19. Between January and December 2021, the cumulative cases rose to 444.635 and deaths to 5.324, increasing 292% and 418% respectively, compared to 2020.
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