Venezuelan Exodus: Unprecedented in Latin America

The massive extra demand for food, medicine, housing, and public services is a daily challenge for countries bearing the brunt of Venezuelan migration.
Raúl Sánchez-Azuara/Diálogo | 16 May 2019

A family of Venezuelan migrants rests after an 18-hour walk from Cúcuta to Pamplona, Norte de Santander department, Colombia, February 11, 2019. (Photo: Elyxandro Cegarra, AFP)

Venezuela, once considered the richest country in Latin America, is experiencing the worst economic, political, and health crisis in the history of the hemisphere, as it spirals downward to become the poorest country in the region. According to the April 2019 World Bank report “Beyond Borders: A Look at the Venezuelan Exodus,” inflation might reach 10 million percent in 2019. Eighty-nine percent of Venezuelans are living below the poverty line, while the rate of violence escalated to 89 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest in the region, and almost three times higher than countries at war, the report indicated.

According to the United Nations (UN), 4 million citizens — 25 percent of the Venezuelan population — suffer from severe malnutrition. UN reports indicate that malaria cases increased to 400,000 in 2017, while measles and diphtheria epidemics, and other diseases, keep rising due to lack of food and public services.

“In 2018, 3.7 million people left Venezuela, which means 5,000 Venezuelans per day,” said Eduardo Stein, UN Joint Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants. “If this pace continues, there will be more than 5 million Venezuelans out of Venezuela by the end of 2019.”

The Venezuelan exodus — the second largest in the world after Syria’s — has been affecting neighboring countries, and overwhelming public services, which lack the infrastructure or budget to meet the massive and urgent need for food, medicine, and shelter. In recent years, Colombia welcomed approximately 1.2 million Venezuelan migrants, Peru has sheltered 700,000, Ecuador 200,000, and Brazil 96,000, while 80,000 exiled Venezuelans are in the United States, according to the World Bank. 

According to the UN High Commission for Refugees, “Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans are still without documentation or visas to remain in neighboring countries, and they lack guaranteed access to basic rights. This makes them vulnerable to labor and sexual exploitation, trafficking, violence, discrimination, and xenophobia.”

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