Venezuela has been sent deeper into its political struggle as there is still no legitimate president recognised both nationally and internationally – and with the country and onlookers still divided, civilians continue to struggle as they are forced to bear the brunt of the growing social epidemic caused by the political unrest.
A by-product of the escalating political crisis is the major decrease in the social and economic structures supporting the Venezuelan population. A growing number of Venezuelans have needed to leave their country in search of basic provisions like food and water. 3.5 million people have left Venezuela, according to UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, and they are heading to around fifteen different countries, the most popular of these being Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil. UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock states that seven million people, 25 per cent of the population, need humanitarian aid and calls for the separation of “political and humanitarian objectives”.
There are already signs of severe medical and food shortages in Venezuela according to Human Rights Watch and public health researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. There are also signs of diseases spreading across its borders. The researchers are also calling for the UN to declare the situation in Venezuela “a complex humanitarian emergency that poses a serious risk to the region”.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, having previously denied that the current situation is a humanitarian crisis, has opened doors for the country to receive aid from the Red Cross. The change of stance from Maduro follows a meeting with the Red Cross chief. Maduro later posted on Twitter: “We confirm our readiness to establish cooperation mechanisms for international assistance and support”. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has shown their concern for the “serious impact that the current situation has on Venezuelans, especially those who do not have access to basic services”. The partnership will be welcome news for Venezuelans caught up in the crisis. According to the UN, among those most in need of assistance are a reported 3.7 million malnourished Venezuelans. 22 per cent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition.
The acceptance of aid and humanitarian support from Red Cross is a start in the right direction for Venezuela however much more will be needed if conditions are to improve for the country and its most vulnerable people. The aid and provision of basic goods seem to hang in the balance of an unrestful political landscape. This is in line with the appeal of the UN refugee chief to Latin American countries currently hosting and supporting migrants and refugees from Venezuela, to “keep the doors open and diminish restrictions imposed on Venezuelans” seeking refuge.
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