The Strategist

Humanitarian crisis in Venezuela can exceed the Syrian refugee crisis

02/21/2018 - 13:30

As the Brookings Institution in Washington said, the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in Venezuela may in the near future surpass in scale the one that was taking place in Syria. There is an acute shortage of food and basic medicines in Venezuela, infant mortality is high, and the government has refused to pay the national debt. 4 million people have already fled the country, and this figure is expected to grow.

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The Photographer
As the economist of the Brookings Institution, Dany Bahar, notes in his publication, the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is the most serious in the Western Hemisphere in modern history. Not war, as it often happens, but the collapse of the economy and the social sphere has triggered it. According to some estimates, about 4 million people, or 10% of the population, fled Venezuela in search of a better life in recent years. For comparison: 5 million Syrians left the country for the entire time of the Syrian war.

The most frequent reason for forcing Venezuelans to flee the country is the lack of funds to buy food and medicine, which is why people starve and die from curable diseases.
It is already common for Venezuelans to look for food in garbage dumps, and, according to the expert, about three-quarters of the country's population, on average, lost up to 10 kg of weight. The infant mortality increased by 30% just in 2016.

Since the fall in oil prices in 2014, which was the main income item of the Venezuelan budget, the country's economy has declined by more than 30%. As a result, the oil industry and the manufacturing sector as a whole are collapsing, Venezuelan authorities cannot pay off foreign debts, and inflation at the end of 2017 reached 2616%.

The main stream of Venezuelan refugees is flowing to Colombia. Only in 2017, the neighbouring country received about 750 thousand Venezuelans, and the total number of refugees that have travelled through Colombia since 2014 has already reached 2 million. This has sharply worsened the security situation inside Colombia itself. Last week, Colombian Defence Minister Luis Carlos Villegas expressed concern that refugees join local bandit and insurgent groups involved in assaults, murders, and robberies. Colombia has already announced its intention to tighten migration controls on the border with Venezuela, send 3,000 security personnel to the border and temporarily cancel one-day cards that allow Venezuelans to come to the bordering Colombian cities to buy food and essential goods that cannot be obtained from Venezuela.

Now, according to the expert of the Brookings Institution, the Venezuelan authorities are actually ignoring the current situation in the country, and the nearest neighbours are trying to isolate themselves from it. No one is trying to develop and implement a plan for solving the problem of Venezuelan refugees. That's why experts believe that the number of refugees will only grow. According to Mr. Bahar, the UN and the Organization of American States should be involved in the resolution of the crisis, and the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and other similar organizations could provide financial support to countries hosting Venezuelan refugees.


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