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Venezuela: Caritas’ cry of alarm “inflation at 1 million % at year’s end. A month’s wage not enough to buy a carton of eggs” 

Interview with Janeth Marquez, director of Caritas Venezuela: 87% of Venezuelan families live in poverty. Fortunately, child acute malnutrition dropped from 16.2 to 12.2 percent thanks to pre-election government benefits and migrants’ remittances. Over 4 million people have left the Country, over 2 million have fled in the past two years. But those who arrived in bordering Countries are experiencing restrictions and growing xenophobia.

By the year’s end hyperinflation in Venezuela is likely to hit an unconceivable 1,000,000%. While in 2014 a person could afford to buy 4 cartons of eggs with his minimum wage, in 2018 the same amount is not sufficient to buy 1 egg carton. Venezuela “is experiencing the worst crisis in its recent history: extreme poverty, increasing violence and insecurity, significant deterioration in quality of life (increasingly poor health and food insecurity), job insecurity, deteriorating quality of the educational system, lack of basic services and violation of the fundamental rights of the population.” 87% of families are poor, 90% of transport is out of order, water is supplied less than three days a week. There have been 175.000 cases of malaria in Edo, Bolivar, in April 2018 alone and 78 cases of tuberculosis every 100 thousand inhabitants in Caracas in 2017. It’s the new cry of alarm of Caritas Venezuela, the only institution with reliable data on the ongoing humanitarian crisis, reported by international agencies, seen that the government of Nicolas Maduro does not release official figures. Janeth Marquez director of Caritas Venezuela.told SIR from Caracas,

 

 

Inflation is at unsustainable levels in Venezuela. How does it influence the life of the poorest part of the population?

Our Country has been hit by hyperinflation since November 2017, when the monthly price variation exceeded 50%. In 2017 inflation escalated at 2.616%; 46.305% at a yearly rate – from June 2017 to June 2018 –. In the month of June 2018 alone it was at 128.4%, the daily inflation rate was approximately 2.8% (June 2018), according to figures released by the National Assembly.

            Inflation is predicted to hit 1.000.000% by the end of 2018.

Hyperinflation is a highly destructive phenomenon that has tangible effects on Venezuelan life: it pulverizes salaries and savings. The poorest are in the worst conditions, because the highest rate of inflation involves the food industry and it is known that the poorest people spend 100% of their money to buy food. Hence inflation is the tax of the poorest brackets who can’t invest their money in recreational activities that regain value.

            In 2014, a person with his minimum wage could buy 4 egg cartons. In 2016 he could buy 3        egg cartons. In 2018 he cannot even afford an egg carton.

As a result of the serious crisis high numbers of Venezuelans are emigrating but some neighbouring Countries have started to enforce restrictions.

The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela has triggered mass migration. The situation of Venezuelan migrants is very precarious since in the second half of 2017 highly vulnerable people arrived in the neighbouring countries:

            70% migrate for economic reasons.

This forced migration is having regional consequences. In August 2018 Peru and Brazil announced a health and humanitarian emergency on the border with Venezuela due to the high demographic pressure of Venezuelan migrants. Ecuador, Peru and Chile tightened entry rules for Venezuelan migrants, with visa and passport requirements. UNHCR America made known that

            Venezuelan emigration is the worst migrant crisis the continent has seen in modern history

with over 2 million people estimated to have left the Country in the past 3 years. Considering the previous migratory waves it is estimated that

            some 4 million Venezuelans have emigrated to Colombia, Brazil, Trinidad, Ecuador, Peru,             Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.

The reception of Venezuelans is now impacted by the exorbitant number of migrants, by the conditions of extreme poverty and vulnerability when they arrive in the host countries and the many diseases they export. They see us as intruders and respond with xenophobia.

What is the situation of incoming Venezuelan migrants?

The Venezuelan population entering South American today are highly vulnerable persons.

            Many of them are left with no means of sustenance, they are undernourished and with    infectious diseases.

In these conditions they face difficult situations when arriving and seeking to integrate into the host Countries, including difficulties when accessing the job market and regulating their migrant status. Their irregular conditions exposes men, women and children to

            Labour exploitation, blackmail, discrimination and threats.

What has been the response in neighbouring Countries until today?

The responses of the countries in the region are fragmented and uncoordinated at the bilateral or multilateral level, despite the fact that many countries are both recipients of Venezuelan migrants and transit territories. It is worrying to observe that the regularization measures adopted by most of these states

            are ineffective with respect to international protection needs.

 

Even humanitarian assistance mechanisms failed to deliver efficient answers in terms of timeframe and resources. Access to refugee determination procedures is still limited. The Venezuelan government, by limiting the population’s access to passports has failed to provide citizens with the safety net ensuring the right to freedom of movement. The forced migration of the Venezuelan people requires government solutions consistent with international law, ensuring the recognition of refugee status through fair and efficient asylum procedures granting them the right to social assistance and employment.

Does Caritas Venezuela have updated statistics on poverty?  

Venezuela is experiencing

            The worst crisis in modern history: extreme poverty, increase in violence and insecurity,             significant deterioration it the quality of life

(ever more precarious health conditions and food insecurity), job insecurity, deteriorating quality of the educational system, lack of basic services and violation of the fundamental rights of the population. Caritas witnessed the serious humanitarian needs in the poorest parishes in the Country, disproportionately supported by vulnerable brackets. There are no official figures on poverty. We continue sharing the figures dating back to 2017 according to which

            87% of Venezuelan families live in poverty

according to the latest findings of the 2017 survey on quality of life  (Encovi).

Which new solidarity initiatives have you adopted as Caritas, in addition to “Ollas solidarias” (solidarity pots) that distribute meals in parishes? 

We promote several solidarity initiatives.  We have also set up pharmaceutical counters, along with days dedicated to health, soup kitchens, distribution of food to malnourished children, sports days, craft classes, and so on.

What’s the situation of children?

            The situation of indigenous Venezuelan children who arrived in Brazil is particularly serious,

of great vulnerability: they don’t go to school and live in makeshift shelters, they are victims of child labour exploitation. There are no formal obstacles to accessing education for non-indigenous children, but they are faced with situations of bullying, especially against young girls, psychological violence and xenophobia. Many children were left in Venezuela. Their parents emigrated in search of better living conditions. In October 2016 Caritas Venezuela began monitoring child malnutrition to identify children in need of medical and nutritional assistance. In the poorest parishes in which we work

global acute malnutrition has doubled in one year – from 8.2% in October 2016 to 16.2% in December 2017. This year is decreased to 12.2%

due to the issuance of government grants for electoral purposes, to the remittances of migrants that are starting to pour in to families who remained in Venezuela and to fraternal cooperation. In August 2017 63% of all families scavenged for food in degrading places such as garbage cans; 73% experienced a deterioration in nutritional intake and eat only once a day, resport to unsafe food sources or skip meals (mostly women) to feed their family instead.

 

 

 

 

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