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Venezuelan Humanitarian and Refugee Crisis

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Venezuela has been in a severe socio-political and economic crisis for several years.

With an exodus of more than 7.24 million people (as of March 28, 2023), the refugee crisis in Venezuela is one of the largest in the world. Even early in the crisis (2018), when only one million had fled, it was deemed the largest-ever refugee crisis in Latin America.

Nearly 6.1 million of the refugees are located in Latin America and the Caribbean. Those who fled Venezuela continue to “face challenges accessing food, housing, and stable jobs” in their new countries of residence. As a result of these challenges, some refugees choose to continue their migration to other countries, and some have chosen to return to Venezuela.

According to UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency), this has been “motivated mainly by the lack of integration opportunities and cases of intolerance and xenophobia, as well as the desire for family reunification and the perception of an improving economic outlook in Venezuela. According to Venezuela’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, more than 300,000 nationals have returned to the country since September 2020. Nevertheless, those returning face difficulties in accessing jobs, social services, and housing.”

Decades of government mismanagement have created an economic, political and humanitarian crisis with a reduced quality of life similar to those experienced in countries affected by wars or conflicts. There are many significant and urgent needs within Venezuela and host countries: all underfunded.

Within Venezuela, approximately 25% of the population requires humanitarian assistance. Cynthia Arnson, director of the Wilson Center’s Latin American program, told PBS in January 2022, “Life is very difficult. The poverty rate is over 95 percent. About 75 percent of people live in extreme poverty. There are shortages of food, of drinking water, of medicines. Inflation last year was down to 700 percent. It’s less than it was at 3,000 percent the year before. But inflation is still very, very high.”

Of the 7.24 million people who left Venezuela as of March 2023, more than 84% (nearly 6.1 million) have settled in just 17 countries in the Caribbean and Latin America. The majority are in other South American countries, including Colombia (2.48 million), Peru (1.51 million), Ecuador (502,200), Chile (444,400) and Brazil (426,000). There is movement in both directions across the borders, however, the number who have left is in the millions, and the number who have returned is around 300,000.

According to the Refugee and Migrant Needs Analysis released in October 2022:

  • Nearly three-quarters of the migrants and refugees in Latin America and the Caribbean are “people in need (PIN).” The PIN percentage varies by country. It is the highest (88.3%) in the Dominican Republic, where 101,800 of the 115,300 people need assistance. Other countries with high needs are Trinidad and Tobago (86.3%), Bolivia (82.3%), Brazil (81.6%) and Colombia (80.3%). Even the country with the lowest PIN percentage – Panama – has over half the population in need at 50.2%.
  • At least 85% of children are identified as people in need, compared to 70% of adults.
  • Protection is the highest area of need (69.2%), followed by integration (64.9%), health (57.1%), food security (53%) and shelter (52.9%). Education is listed at 46.7%, which seems to make it a lower area of need, but since it only applies to children, it is actually one of the highest areas of need.

(Photo: Refugees from Venezuela have set up their own informal camp in Boa Vista, Brazil. Credit: Michael Swan; CC BY-ND 2.0)

The humanitarian, health and economic challenges were complicated because of a multi-year leadership conflict between Nicolas Maduro, who won a heavily disputed election in May 2018, and Juan Guaidó, then-leader of the National Assembly, who proclaimed himself president on Jan. 23, 2019, using a constitutional provision. The United States and at least 50 other governments worldwide recognized Guaidó as the interim president. China, Russia, several other countries, and the Venezuelan military declared their support for Maduro.

On Dec. 30, 2022, three of the four opposition parties voted to strip Guaidó of his title and role within the National Assembly. On Jan. 5, 2023, the opposition voted to appoint Dinorah Figuera as President but also voted to disband, weakening her status. Like many opposition leaders, she is in exile (Valencia, Spain), but the Maduro government issued a warrant for her arrest a couple of days later, for “participation in irregular acts related to the fictitious appointment of a Board of Directors of an alleged Illegitimate National Assembly, for the theft of Venezuelan assets abroad.” The opposition also established a committee to oversee foreign assets.

One of those assets is Citgo Petroleum, which owes about $900 million in debt. This is currently protected by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control, until April 20, 2023. The decrease in oil costs means the government cannot sell enough oil to purchase needed imports. This is despite the fact that 18% of proven oil reserves are in the country (about 300 billion barrels.)

According to a report from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), “Venezuela is the archetype of a failed petrostate.” This is defined as a country that is highly dependent on oil and natural gas as a resource – particularly the financial income gained from its export. Petrostates also see political and economic power concentrated in the hands of a few elites and corruption of its weak political institutions is common.

It is expected that Venezuela will hold a presidential vote in 2024. In March 2023, “a Venezuelan official said free presidential elections in 2024 were dependent on the lifting of sanctions.”

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Key facts
Source: R4V
  • In 2016, the population was 30.74 million. By 2021, it had dropped to 28.2 million and is now starting to increase, with 2022 recording a population of 28.30 million people. Despite a decreasing birthrate of 17.06% in 2022, it has still helped reduce the overall impact of the population exodus.
  • The U.S. is a destination for many Venezuelan migrants and refugees. During 2022, there was a significant increase in Venezuelan refugees and migrants heading north through Central America and Mexico. Some are resorting to dangerous traveling methods, including by boat or the treacherous Darién Gap. In April 2023, more migrants from Venezuela (41,111) crossed the border than in any other month since October 2020. So far in this fiscal year (October 2022 to April 2023) 135,691 Venezuelans have entered into the U.S.
  • The average monthly salary in Venezuela is $24 (USD) in 2023. This is the lowest of 178 countries on BDEEX’ rating of salaries by country. By comparison, the average salary in the U.S. is $3,300 for a ranking of 18th. The next lowest countries are Syria (177), with an average salary of $40 and Sudan (176) with an average salary of $45.
  • Bloomberg created the “Venezuela Café Con Leche Index” to track inflation using the price of a cup of coffee as the measurement. According to the index, as of May 17, 2022, the price of a cup of coffee was 9.6 bolivars. As of May 16, 2023, it is 64.10 bolivars, an increase of 568%. This is equivalent of $2.47
  • Similarly, a weekly food basket to help a family of four survive (just 60% of caloric need) costs 1,077 bolivars ($39.70 USD) as of May 22, 2023.
  • Transparency International has given Venezuela a score of 14 (0 is highly corrupt, 100 is very clean) on its Corruptions Perceptions Index. It is ranked 177 out of 180 countries. The United States has a score of 67 and a ranking of 27 by comparison.
U.S. migration

An increasing number of Venezuelans are attempting to cross the U.S. border. After Mexicans, Venezuelans were the second-largest nationality stopped at the border, surpassing Guatemalans and Hondurans.

A new agreement signed in October 2022 stranded tens of thousands of Venezuelans in Mexico or en route to the United States with no opportunity to access the U.S. Those who were already en route – estimated to be over 50,000 – are ineligible to even apply to enter the United States. Additionally, this agreement is only applicable to Venezuelan residents with a U.S. sponsor who will “provide housing and other supports” as well as pay for their flights because the only way to enter the United States under this new agreement is by air.


As of May 22, the monthly minimum wage in Venezuela is 130 bolivars, which is equivalent to $5.00 USD. Even people earning several times the minimum wage struggle to survive. It is the lowest minimum wage across Latin America. The United Nations considers $57 to be the rate of extreme poverty.


Johns Hopkins University, shared a health study on a webinar organized by CDP for the Simon Bolivar Foundation on health needs within Venezuela. The 2022 study found:

  • “The political and economic crisis over the past five years has severely crippled the country’s health and health system. The situation has been exacerbated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
  • “Contrary to the regional life expectancy rates, Venezuela’s life expectancy has decreased.” For men it is 68.3 years compared to 72.5 years in the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region and for women it is 76.0 years compared to 76.8 years in the LAC region. One study they shared found that “…every child born in Venezuela has the expectancy to live 3.5 years less than those born in a previous generation (Lares, 2019).”
  • Venezuela saw a 5% increase in maternal mortality during this period and infant deaths were 63.6% higher in 2016 than 2012. “While global rates have decreased, infant and under-five mortality rates in Venezuela have increased in the past 20 years. Children under 1 year of age account for ~80% of deaths under 5 years. Primary causes of neonatal deaths include prematurity (40%), congenital anomalies (17%), sepsis (16%), injury (20%), pneumonia (17%). Primary causes of death in children 1-4 years of age include injury (20%), pneumonia (17%) and diarrhea (11%).”
  • “Vaccination coverage in Venezuela is well below the regional average, with a resurgence of many vaccine-preventable diseases, most notably measles. Malaria: increased 893% from 2007 to 2017 – contrary to regional trends. The most recent regional data indicates more than half of malaria cases in the Latin America and Caribbean are in Venezuela. The estimated prevalence of HIV is 0.5% but as high as 22% among men who have sex with men and 36% among transgender women. The incidence of tuberculosis (TB) doubled from 2014 to 2018.”
  • Venezuela’s health infrastructure is crumbling, with more than 70% of public hospitals without regular access to water or electricity and transplant programs on hold since 2014.

A CDP-led webinar, reviewed a report on the health status and challenges of Venezuelans who have been displaced to other countries in the Americas region.

This 2022 report found that: “Many Venezuelans had pre-existing medical conditions that had gone untreated for quite some time and faced increased health risks during their journeys, such as sexual and gender-based violence. They are further challenged for various reasons in accessing quality health care in their hosting countries. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic and related border closures to curb its spread have posed additional risks and barriers to displaced Venezuelans seeking refuge in host countries. The pandemic has exacerbated many pre-existing medical conditions and fostered new ones, including an uptick in domestic and intimate partner violence and increased instances of sexual violence and exploitation of women and girls in informal transit routes seeking to cross borders. Globally, forcibly displaced populations are increasingly facing the triple burden of chronic noncommunicable diseases (e.g., diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory conditions, and cancer), infectious diseases (e.g., tuberculosis, HIV, hepatitis), and psychiatric illnesses (e.g., post-traumatic stress disorder, depression), which accurately reflects the situation of displaced Venezuelans in the Americas region. The linchpin for displaced Venezuelans to have quality health care across the Americas is acquiring the correct legal status to access public health and other institutions. For those conferred appropriate legal status, services tend to be limited to primary care in urban settings.  Women and girls, Indigenous peoples, particularly female Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, the elderly, members of the LGBTQI community, and children, particularly unaccompanied and separated minors, face additional acute health care access barriers, and relatedly require specific and specialized support they are currently not receiving.”

The complex humanitarian emergency (CHE) in Venezuela and surrounding countries was heavily affected by COVID-19. According to Worldometers, Venezuela has had more than 552,695 confirmed cases and 5,856 deaths related to COVID-19 as of May 21, 2023. The number of confirmed cases is likely a significant underestimate as a result of limited testing and reporting.

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Hunger and malnutrition

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), Venezuela “imports more than 70 percent of the consumed processed foods and is extremely vulnerable to international price fluctuations. In August 2022, food prices increased by 30 percent (World Bank), making access to nutritious food and a diversified diet difficult for most families.”

Since July 2021, WFP has been providing food assistance, primarily through school meals and school kitchen refurbishment and some disaster food support.

The Global Hunger Index ranked Venezuela 85th “out of the 121 countries with sufficient data to calculate 2022 GHI scores. With a score of 19.9, Venezuela has a level of hunger that is moderate.”

In 2014, the score was just 8.1 and is now higher than it has been in over 20 years. This has had a significant impact for children with all related scores increasing since 2014 including: undernourishment (from 4.5% to 22.9% of the population), child wasting (from 3.4% to 5% of children under five), child stunting (from 11% to 22.2% of children under five) and child mortality (from 1.8% to 2.4% of children under five).

According to a 2022 NPR story, “many kids [in the country] are small for their age, reflecting a growing crisis of malnutrition across Venezuela. In a survey published in May 2021, the development group Caritas found that 42% of over 46,000 measurements taken from children in Venezuela’s poorest neighborhoodsreflect stunting or wasting. That means the children are too short or underweight for their age … Price controls and the seizure of farms and factories by the government led to food shortages. Hyperinflation made it harder to afford groceries. To alleviate the suffering, the government says it hands out food to about 7 millionVenezuelan households. But the economic crisis, aggravated by U.S. economic sanctions targeting the oil industry, has forced the government to cut back on food aid.”

Food insecurity has been exacerbated by the high costs of fuel. Farmers are unable to obtain enough fuel to operate their equipment, thereby reducing the amount of land capable of producing crops. Similar situations have occurred in the sugar mills and dairy industry.

In 2018, it was reported that most Venezuelans had lost nearly 25 pounds in the previous year.


A report by Transparency International found that only 18% of Venezuelans had access to safe drinking water in 2019. This is exacerbated by the fuel crisis, as water must be pumped from reservoirs in many regions because of the high elevation.

Due to the unclean water in the country, many people suffer from dangerous waterborne illnesses. Not only does this harm their health, but it also disrupts the everyday socio-economic activities of their communities. Children cannot go to school because they don’t have clean clothes and people go hungry because they do not have fresh water for cooking.”

A two-pronged approach is required to support the crisis in Venezuela.

  • The situation within Venezuela is dire, and the needs are immense. To support the needs of Venezuelans within the country, funders should focus on funding local actors or international NGOs with humanitarian access.
  • As a result of the immense displacement, there are many host countries who are also in need of philanthropic assistance to help provide support for the affected countries.

Nutritional support

As noted above, malnutrition, stunting and food insecurity are common. Government food programs are inadequate to meet needs, even with support from groups such as WFP. In and out of the country, Venezuelans need nutrition support and supplementation of food. This can include the provision of meals, distribution of high-energy, portable, emergency rations at migration checkpoints, vouchers to purchase local food in Venezuela or receiving countries and agricultural support.

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)

WASH assistance is important, especially within Venezuela, but also for migrants while traveling in and out of the country. For example. assistance with water distribution, such as purchase of water tanker trucks, wells and water purification units. An August 2019 report by Transparency International found that only 18% of the Venezuelan population had access to clean drinking water. In the same year, analysts projected “some 20 million Venezuelans have lost access to water or gone through water shortages this year, reflecting a lack of investment and mismanagement of the country’s water system.” Information about water quality is hard to determine as the Maduro government does not openly share data.

Carlos Scull, Ambassador of Venezuela in Peru said in July 2020, “Despite being among the top 15 countries in renewable fresh-water resources, the water supply system in Venezuela has deteriorated over the last two decades due to a lack of investment in infrastructure, corruption, and failed government policies. Most of urban Venezuela including the capital Caracas is located geographically at an altitude which requires electric pumping from reservoirs for the water to reach the city. In Caracas, where approximately more than 7 million Venezuelans live, the city provision of water depends on three systems of water treatment and pumping. These are known as Tuy I, Tuy II, and Tuy III, and together are made up of 14 treatment plants and 147 pumping stations. Both Tuy I and Tuy II are working at 50% of their capacity and the country’s constant electric power shortages affect the function of the pumping system, thereby, reducing the supply of potable water to the population. The consequences of government mismanagement through the state-owned company Hidrocapital have been evident. In 1999, approximately 20,000 liters per second of potable water entered Caracas, but in 2019 that number came down to 14,000 liters per second. A fourth system (Tuy IV) has been under construction since 1982 seeking to supply the capital with sufficient clean water, but it has not been finished even after many years of unfulfilled promises.”


Receiving countries, in particular, need support providing shelter or financial assistance to Venezuelans.

According to research from UNHCR in Oct. 2022, “The spiraling cost of living, fallout from the COVID-19 emergency, and high unemployment rates have increased the vulnerability of Venezuelan refugees and migrants and have made it difficult for many to rebuild their lives and integrate into host societies across the region. According to the report’s findings, half of all refugees and migrants in the region cannot afford three meals a day and lack access to safe and dignified housing. To access food or avoid living on the streets, many Venezuelans resort to survival sex, begging or indebtedness.”

Medical support

There are a number of recommendations for how to help Venezuelans inside and outside the country, in the two research reports commissioned by the Simon Bolivar Foundation. The following are a few highlights of the ways funders could help, but more information and ideas are available in the report.

  • “Invest in healthcare prevention measures and increased, specialized medical care for the displaced Venezuelan population in the Americas region. Prevention measures associated with healthcare can be cost-effective, provide value for money and give returns on investment in the short and longer term.”
  • “Focus on the health and wellbeing of women and girls. Across all geographies, women’s and girls’ health needs were acute. They lacked significant resources and support services, with substantial deficits in support for Indigenous women and all displaced adolescent girls.”
  • “Support family planning, including access to long-acting contraceptives and emergency contraception for instances of rape and incest. While pervasive before the COVID-19 pandemic, gender-based violence has exponentially increased during it.”
  • “Support the establishment of mobile clinics in rural areas, particularly at transit locations that offer a suite of services for women and children.”
  • “Support increased vaccine access for the standard childhood vaccines recommended by the World Health Organization in clinics/medical institutions serving displaced Venezuelans.”
  • “Support the capacity building of state-run child protection services to address better unaccompanied and separated children’s access to healthcare and other services necessary for their wellbeing. Currently, state-run child protection institutions across the region are not well designed to target support for unaccompanied and separated children, including healthcare.”
  • “Focus on communicable diseases. This research demonstrates an increase in infectious diseases across the region, particularly prevalent in the displaced population due to poor living conditions and lack of access to regular healthcare. Care options for those with STIs and HIV/AIDs were lacking in every geography, urban and rural.”
  • “Focus on non-communicable diseases. Many Venezuelans have pre-existing conditions exacerbated by their lack of access to healthcare inside Venezuela and worsened by their journeys and relatively poor living conditions in host communities. Similarly, some conditions are exacerbated by poor nutrition and the inability to access regular, quality care. Increased capacity to treat non-communicable and chronic diseases for displaced Venezuelans is needed. In urban areas, expanding the ability of preestablished medical institutions to offer this type of care and ongoing treatment and creating more community-based, mobile clinic options to service a relatively large catchment area are two options.”
  • “Fund specialized care for diabetes, thyroid conditions, and cardiovascular and lung disease patients. Fund support for cancer care: like the preceding non-communicable yet chronic diseases, detection capacity and care for cancer patients is neglected.”
  • “Focus on mental health. Across all locations and all population demographics within the displaced Venezuelan community in the region, there was one commonality: the extreme prevalence of mental health conditions and the need for significant resources to be channeled into addressing the psychosocial needs of the displaced. This is a particularly acute need within displaced Venezuelan youth across the region whose mental health has been chronically neglected.”
  • “Focus on health services to prevent/mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and invest in emergency interventions to meet growing needs associated with domestic violence.”
  • “Invest as local as is possible and as international as necessary through supporting local and national NGOs. Across the region, there are robust civil society actors who are from and live with communities affected by displacement and violence.”
  • “Consider longer-term investments in health systems strengthening and programs to support access to appropriate legal status for displaced persons to access public healthcare systems in host countries.”
Provide cash transfers

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy recommends cash both as a donation method and a recovery strategy. Direct cash assistance can allow families to purchase items and services that address their multiple needs. It gives each family flexibility and choice, ensuring that support is relevant and timely. Cash-based approaches to disaster recovery also give people the freedom to choose how they rebuild their lives and provide a pathway to economic empowerment. In countries with a functioning market system, cash transfers allow people to purchase supplies according to their needs.

Cash donations to nonprofits (rather than supplies, except where directly requested) are recommended by disaster experts as they allow for on-the-ground agencies to direct funds to the most significant area of need, support economic recovery and ensure donation management does not detract from supporting disaster recovery needs and quickly re-establishing access to basic needs.

Migration support
In receiving countries, longer-term supports for employment, health care and housing are required. Due to the high percentage of Venezuelans in an “irregular situation” (lack of legal status in the host country), they may not access needed services, making them even more vulnerable. Supports with legal help for documentation, payment of application fees, etc., are necessary.
Women and girls

Many refugees face additional struggles, particularly women and girls who are experiencing gender-based violence due to their undocumented status.

The United Nations Population Fund released a report in May 2021 that highlights some of the general needs and the specific needs of women in Venezuela:

  • “There had been an increase in GBV. In conjunction with internal displacement and the presence of illicxit groups, this situation had derived from sexual slavery and human trafficking in border communities.
  • Shortage of medicines, medical equipment, contraceptive methods, STI/HIV tests and treatments, and hygiene supplies: according to a study developed by a national NGO, there is around 80% of shortage in public health centers. Contraceptives available in private pharmacies have inaccessible costs for a population that accrues one of the lowest minimum wages in the region.
  • Practice of sexual slavery, transactional sex for survival, and sex and human trafficking: a recent need assessment developed by the UNFPA Country Office, which reached hundreds of vulnerable women, found evidence that: 1) Women are being forced to move internally and externally. Inside the country, there is an increased tendency of women and adolescents, particularly unaccompanied, to move towards illegal mining sites in Bolívar. 2) Women and adolescents are recruited by armed and illegal groups and forced into forced prostitution and sex slavery. Some others resort to a forced marriage with gang members seeking the so-called “protection”, as a protection mechanism. 3) The assessment shows that women and adolescents in Venezuela deceived by false job offers in other regions are recruited into sex trafficking gangs, particularly adolescents. 4) Those who cross illegal and legal check-points on foot in border areas encounter sex abuse and physical violence by criminal armed groups and police officers.
  • A marked risk of increased maternal mortality and unwanted pregnancies: according to the latest public epidemiological bulletin of the Ministry of Health in Venezuela, between 2015 and 2016, maternal mortality increased by 65.8%. In August 2019, 352 deaths of women during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum were extra officially reported (98,87 deaths per 100,000 live births) (7), 17% less than in 2018 (426 deaths), although the rate is still high. In addition, the adolescent fertility rate is 95 per 1,000 women aged 15-19 years old, compared to a regional average of 62.”

CDP has a Global Recovery Fund that provides an opportunity for donors to meet the ongoing and ever-expanding challenges presented by global crises.

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(Photo: A group of children arriving to a community lunch preparation as part of the recovery and rebuild humanitarian aid program. Credit: Jose Luis Molero / The Wayuu Taya Foundation)

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Philanthropic and government support

In October 2022, CDP provided a $200,000 grant to the Wayuu Taya Foundation, which supports the Indigenous Wayuu people who are located primarily along the Guajira Peninsula on the Colombia and Venezuela border. Through this grant, CDP worked with Wayuu Taya to develop an entrepreneurial model for sustainable water solutions that will continue to generate income and allow them to build wells in remote indigenous communities and schools and healthcare centers along the border for years to come.

This grant is the second CDP grant to Wayuu Taya. The first grant, for $100,000 in 2020, had an outsized impact. Wayuu Taya Foundation’s President, Patricia Velasquez, attributes much of their success – shown in this video – to that first grant to build their first well, from which their other programming including sustainable water, agricultural farming, training programs and school hygiene programs stemmed. After CDP’s initial grant, Wayuu Taya Foundation was able to leverage this to secure more partnerships from many other international funders. This demonstrates what a huge impact can come from even small investments in organizations seeking to implement local, long-term solutions in their communities.

CDP provided a $250,000 grant in August 2022 to International Medical Corps from its COVID-19 Response Fund to improve COVID-19 vaccine access in remote indigenous communities in the Cedeño municipality of Bolívar state in Venezuela, by providing logistics support to transport and store vaccines; donating equipment to hospitals to store vaccines; strengthening the capacity of local vaccinators; and raising awareness about COVID-19 vaccines through community activities.

Simón Bolívar Foundation Inc., the nonprofit private foundation of CITGO Petroleum Corporation, awarded $1.68 million in grant funding to seven organizations as part of its Colombia-Ecuador-Peru Humanitarian Health Grants program in November 2022. These grants were designed to support projects addressing “the health needs of the vulnerable migrant community and host populations in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru … The projects are estimated to benefit more than 30,000 people in need, including mothers and children, train more than 300 health professionals and provide more than 270,000 healthy and nutritious meals.”

The Ford Foundation has made several grants to support work in Venezuela including a $2 million, two-year grant in 2022 to Pan Health America Organization to increase equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, and diagnostic and clinical care for populations in situations of vulnerability in the Americas. They also provided a $500,000 grant in 2021 to People in Need for the creation of a Venezuelan Resilience Fund to enable civil society organizations and human rights defenders in Venezuela to overcome the challenges generated by closing civic space and the consequences of COVID-19. A 13-month grant of $110,000 was made in 2021 to openDemocracy Limited to expand coverage and reporting on the Venezuelan crisis including the closing of civic space, the migration exodus, and the consequences of the complex humanitarian emergency on vulnerable populations of ethnic communities and women. A grant in 2020 for $90,000 to Grupo de Trabajo Socioambiental de la Amazonía, Wataniba supported the protection of the rights of the Yanomami and Uwottja People as they struggle against the effects of illegal mining, COVID-19 and the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis.

Since 2017, U.S. foreign assistance in response to the crisis in Venezuela has totaled $2.7 billion, of which $2.3 billion is humanitarian aid. In September 2022, the U.S. announced “nearly $376 million in new humanitarian assistance to respond to the needs of vulnerable Venezuelans in Venezuela, Venezuelan refugees and migrants, and their generous host communities across the region … This humanitarian assistance includes more than $181 million through the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and more than $194 million through the U.S. Agency for International Development.”

This is in addition to the “nearly $314 million [that] was announced in new humanitarian, health, economic, and development assistance for Venezuelan refugees and vulnerable migrants across the hemisphere at the Ninth Summit of Americas on June 10, 2022.”

The United Nations 2022-2023 Humanitarian Response Plan for Venezuela, released in August 2022, calls for $795 million in aid. As of May 23, 2023, the appeal has been 34.8% funded ($276.6 million), with 62%/$171.5 million of that coming from the U.S. Other top contributors include European Commission ($47.5 million), Germany ($9.1 million), Canada ($8.9 million) and Sweden ($8.2) million.

In mid-March 2023, a conference in Brussels raised awareness and funds for Venezuela’s crisis.

In late April, the International Conference on the Political Process in Venezuela was held in Bogotá, Colombia to bring together delegations from 19 countries in Latin America, North America and Europe. Organized by Colombian President Gustavo Petro, the goal was to help restart negotiations between the opposition and the government that stalled in Mexico City in late 2022. Neither the opposition nor government was invited to the Bogotá event. It was agreed that the next steps would include: establishing a schedule for an upcoming election in 2024, continuing with the Mexico negotiations and a progressive lifting of sanctions.

During the Mexico City negotiations in November 2022, the Maduro administration and the opposition party had agreed “to create a $3 billion social fund drawn from various Venezuelan seized assets to invest in education, healthcare and infrastructure repairs. The UN will be in charge of distributing the money while a Venezuelan joint commission would follow and verify its correct implementation.”

On May 21, 2023, the U.S. government indicated “the money could operate within the US financial system without the risk of creditors seizing it to repay outstanding Venezuelan debt. The UN-administered fund could be released by the end of the month.”

The Brookings Institute has been highlighting the underfunding of Venezuelan refugees, especially in comparison to other refugee crises like Syria or South Sudan. In February 2021, they said, “Based on the figures for 2020, total funding per refugee amounts to $3,150 per Syrian, $1,390 per South Sudanese, and just $265 per Venezuelan. In other words, funding for the Syrian refugees has been over 10 times larger than for Venezuelans, in per capita terms. Even if we generously assume that the U.N. appeal for 2021 is fully met, the total amount of funding for the Venezuelan refugee crisis would reach $3 billion, which translates into less than $600 per person. Even in the best-case scenario, the Venezuelan refugee crisis will remain severely underfunded.”

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