In Venezuela, HI has established operational and strategic partnerships with stakeholders in the disability sector and is working to improve the living conditions of people with disabilities.
Venezuelan migrants in Colombia. | © HI
Over the years, HI has developed in-depth knowledge of the Latin American context and actors. In 2019, HI began operations in Venezuela as part of its regional response to mitigate the impact of the migration crises. The first project focused on improving access to essential services such as health, protection and food assistance for the most marginalised groups, with a particular focus on people with disabilities and those with mental health and psychosocial support needs.
Since 2022, HI has been working in new regions, Amazonas and Apure, to help meet the substantial needs of the population. Indeed, humanitarian actors are rare in these areas due to access difficulties and the deteriorating context.
HI is running a project for the protection of the most vulnerable populations in Venezuela, including children, adolescents, women and people with disabilities. The programme is working in collaboration with local partners, other organisations and the authorities, providing training and preparing other humanitarian actors to identify and take into account their specific needs. Our teams are also creating educational materials to accompany and complement this capacity building.
Since 2013, Venezuela has been experiencing a severe socio-economic crisis that has led to a sharp increase in poverty and caused over 6 million Venezuelans to leave the country.
At the beginning of the 20th century, oil was discovered in Venezuela; the country has the largest known reserves in the world today. Thanks to rising oil prices in the early 2000s, the government led by Hugo Chávez had sufficient funds to implement populist social welfare policies. These policies initially stimulated the Venezuelan economy, temporarily reducing economic inequality and poverty.
When Hugo Chávez died in 2013, Nicolás Maduro was elected with a narrow majority in a widely contested election. Falling oil prices and speculation brought about the collapse of the country's economy and led to hyperinflation, economic depression and shortages of basic goods. This in turn caused a drastic increase in unemployment, poverty, disease, malnutrition and crime. The sanctions imposed by the US government worsened the situation.
This socio-economic crisis heightened throughout 2019, 2020 and 2021, resulting in one of the largest population displacements in the history of South America. An estimated 6 million people Venezuelans have left the country since 2014.
The situation was further exacerbated by the restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. By 2022, the country's GDP had fallen by 80% and the crisis is now considered chronic.