The impact of Venezuela's devastating problems has rippled across Latin America and the Caribbean in recent years as more than 3 million people left the country. As is the case in emergencies around the world, it is the children who are most vulnerable.
The number of children who are affected by the Venezuelan crisis and who will need humanitarian aid this year is expected to more than double to reach 1.1 million, up from nearly 500,000, the UN children's agency said Thursday. The figure includes children uprooted from Venezuela, those who have returned and others in host and transit communities across Latin America and the Caribbean, said a UNICEF statement.
The latest estimate highlighted expectations among aid agencies that the political crisis in Venezuela will worsen in the coming months, exacerbating the dire humanitarian situation of children and families. UNICEF called on governments in the region to uphold the rights of children and ensure they have access to essential services. An internal U.N. report seen by AFP last week said seven million people, about 24 percent of Venezuela's population, are in need of humanitarian aid, lacking access to food and medical care. The U.N. Security Council is expected to meet next week at the request of the U.S. to discuss Venezuela's humanitarian crisis.
Humanitarian aid has become the centerpiece of the standoff between Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has declared himself interim president. President Nicolas Maduro has blamed U.S. sanctions for Venezuela's economic problems but Guaido says government corruption and mismanagement are at fault. Maduro has accused the U.S. of plotting an invasion. He accused U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton of overseeing a plot to replace him with a dictator. He alleged that Washington is using "dirty dollars, bled from the U.S. empire" to train 734 mercenaries in neighboring Colombia to carry out the plot.
The Venezuelan leader began a second six-year term on Jan. 10, having won elections in May that were boycotted by the opposition and rejected by 12 Latin American nations, including Colombia and Brazil. Turkey, Russia, Iran, Cuba, China and Bolivia reiterated their support for Maduro, who vowed to cut ties with the U.S. following the worsening diplomatic situation. The U.S. President Donald Trump pointed to military intervention as one possibility among a number of choices he could use to help resolve the crisis.
Last week, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said that it is poised to start distributing assistance to an estimated 650,000 people in the South American country.
That amount is well below the 3.7 million Venezuelans who were undernourished between 2015 and 2017, according to the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization. "All the evidence indicates that the health system in Venezuela has almost completely collapsed," said Tamara Taraciuk Broner, senior Americas researcher for HRW. "We are facing a devastating humanitarian crisis that is unprecedented in Latin America."