CARACAS, Venezuela — Quarantine might be the only method to combat the spread of COVID-19. But for Venezuelans, it has only hindered the rates of survival amid the crisis they’re already experiencing. Coronavirus in Venezuela and the current economic crisis has caused many citizens to find creative solutions.
Poverty in Venezuela
According to a U.N. report from last year, 94% of the 28.8 million Venezuelans live in poverty. This estimate has increased over the last 10 years and has been aggravated during the past six years. Shortages of food and water, soaring inflation and regular blackouts are nothing new. Many have fled Venezuela in search of better opportunities. Approximately five million people emigrated since 2016. But for those who stayed, the situation has worsened due mostly to the coronavirus in Venezuela.
Like the rest of the world, Venezuela has had a lockdown in place since mid-March. There are 93,921 confirmed cases in Venezuela and 819 deaths, according to the tracker maintained by John Hopkins University. As in other countries, businesses have closed, and many citizens have lost their jobs. Consequently, hunger, water, electricity and gas shortages have increased.
Creative Alternatives to Common Problems
Some Venezuelans have the means to pay the pricey options in dollars to have food, gas, water and telephone. Others can only afford to pay the equivalent to their monthly salary for just mere days of basic services and food. Yet, many other Venezuelans do without these basic necessary services and have to look for creative alternatives.
It is not that uncommon to see Venezuelans looking for food, gas, and water and not being able to afford it or even find it. Even though supermarkets are open to the public, a large sector of the population doesn’t have enough money to buy the basic needs to sustain themselves. As a result, numerous Venezuelans turned to work in informal sectors, such as selling and exchanging staples among their neighbors. Others received food as their payments. And many were forced to reduce their portion sizes of food or go with one meal a day.
Access to Clean Water
Finding clean water is now a luxury in the oil-rich country. According to the non-profit Venezuelan Observatory of Public Services, around 86% of Venezuelans reported having poor water service. Additionally, 11% have none at all during an early survey in April. Venezuelans go without access to water for months and when it does come they fill up the last bucket to store the precious liquid.
However, the coronavirus in Venezuela has worsened the already dire situation of water with a restricted imposed quarantine. Without any help from the government, communities have gathered together to look for solutions to this problem. One of them put together 1,300 meters of hoses and went to collect water from an abandoned unfinished viaduct under the mountain Avila where spring water collects itself.
With the effort of everybody, they were able to assemble their own water system for the entire community and now many families have running clean water in their homes. Another community decided to dig a well over a 5-day period and created a water system for other homes.
Access to Electricity And Gas
Finding a solution for electricity and gas, are an entirely different matter, however. Blackouts are a common occurrence. Many people are genuinely surprised when the power does come on. Lines of cars to find gas in the rich oil country are a common sight, where only a few have the privilege of it. Now there are more people walking miles or biking to get to their destinations.
However, UNICEF has been working in the country to provide water, healthcare and basic nutrition to families who are suffering from this coronavirus in Venezuela. Since 2018 they have provided clean water to around 153,000 people. This is in addition to the 18,300 people that accessed hygiene and sanitation services in schools and other spaces.
Furthermore, many non-profits in Venezuela such as Chamos In Aid of the Children of Venezuela have received funds from many to install water tanks in soup kitchens and communities, distributed bar soap, and are now waiting for 33 water purification services.
In order to combat the coronavirus in Venezuela, its people would need all the aid they can receive. The U.N. is fighting to get aid to the South American country, and talks between the opposition and the government are already organized. Venezuelans are strong and hard-working people and amid everything, they have no lost hope that in the near future things will start to improve.
– Alannys Milano