Venezuela is in its sixth consecutive year of economic contraction and hyperinflation, facing an increasing deterioration of the humanitarian situation. The political, social and economic crisis has severely affected the healthcare system, caused large shortages in public services and increased difficulties in accessing food. A growing number of people lack treatment for chronic illnesses and emergency medical care, and face restricted access to water, food and education. Since 2015, around 5.2 million Venezuelans have left the country.
Hyperinflation and severe scarcity of food and essential goods have severely compromised the lives and livelihoods of a large part of the population. According to an assessment by World Food Programme in February 2020, around 9.3 million Venezuelans are in situation of food insecurity and in need of assistance.
The coronavirus pandemic puts an additional strain on Venezuela’s health system, which was already struggling with 80% of the hospitals lacking essential medicines, equipment, water and stable electricity supply. The lockdown has resulted in worsened living conditions as the vast majority of people rely on daily income to survive.
Around 82% of the population don’t have continuous access to water and several large outbreaks of infectious diseases have occurred. Thousands of people living in remote areas along the Orinoco river, especially Venezuelan indigenous peoples, have limited or no access to prevention and health services.
Up to 70% of school-aged children are not attending school on a regular basis, and more that 15% have had significant delays in their education in 2019.
Social protests are common and homicide rates are among the highest in the world. The national average of 21 events a day in January 2020 has jumped to 24 in April due to difficulties related to the lockdown.
Since 2018, the European Union has allocated €156 million in emergency humanitarian aid to assist Venezuelans in need inside the country, and those displaced in neighbouring countries.
EU humanitarian assistance is delivered through United Nations agencies, international non-governmental organisations, and the Red Cross movement who implement projects covering the broad spectrum of humanitarian needs.
Projects inside Venezuela focus on delivering emergency healthcare; water, sanitation and hygiene; education in emergencies; protection; and nutritional and food support. They aid targets the most vulnerable groups such as children under 5 years of age, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, the elderly, and indigenous groups.
As part of the EU global response to coronavirus, in August 2020, a Humanitarian Air Bridge Operation consisting of 2 flights reached Caracas, bringing 82.5 tonnes of life-saving material to supply humanitarian partners in the field and support 500,000 Venezuelans in need. The cargo consisted mostly of medical equipment such as personal protection gear, medicines but also of water purification equipment and family hygiene kits.
Besides, the EU humanitarian assistance to Venezuelan refugees and migrants and host communities in neighbouring countries focuses on emergency medical services, shelter, food and non-food items, protection services (including access to legal services, initiatives against gender-based violence and human trafficking) and education in emergencies.