LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — At the recent Ninth Summit of the Americas which took place in Los Angeles from June 6 to June 10, the U.S. announced a wide range of humanitarian and stabilization efforts in the regions of Central and South America. Among these announcements, the U.S. reconfirmed its commitment to the Venezuelan people by pledging additional aid to Venezuela through USAID and the U.S. State Department to assist in alleviating the fallout from the country’s ongoing political and economic crises. This follows roughly $407 million in aid the U.S. gave to Venezuela in the year 2021. Here is a rundown of who that aid will go to and what it will aim to fund.
Venezuela’s political and economic issues have played a massive part in the country’s skyrocketing extreme poverty rate in recent years. The number is now at a staggering 76.6% of the population or roughly three-fourths of Venezuelans.
While many of the country’s political and economic obstacles have been occurring since the early 2000s, it is the early 2010s that many consider largely responsible for Venezuela’s current state. Since the controversial election which saw the current disputed president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, rise to power in 2013, the country has faced the likes of severe hyperinflation and mass food shortage as well as constitutional crisis and intense power struggle.
Since the onset of these current political, economic and social issues which arose in the early 2010s, the U.S. has been a regular provider of humanitarian assistance and stability initiatives to Venezuela.
Venezuelans at Home
Of all the aid the U.S. will provide to Venezuela., roughly $171 million will be through USAID. USAID’s main priority with this funding will be providing direct relief to Venezuelans who have remained in their home country. The aid will go to basic necessities such as health care, nutrition and food services, water sanitation, emergency shelter as well as protection services.
USAID has emphasized a focus on addressing Venezuelan food security as well through this funding. This includes both Venezuelans at home and those who have migrated to surrounding countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. USAID’s emergency food assistance, which includes everything from hot meals to food vouchers to cash transfers, aims to bring relief directly to those Venezuelans affected the most.
Food insecurity has plagued Venezuelans particularly hard in recent decades, as a mixture of factors has made it increasingly difficult for Venezuelans to get food on the table. Hyperinflation, government seizure of farms and factories and widespread food shortages have all played into this food crisis.
Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants
Since 2014, nearly 6 million Venezuelans— roughly 20% of the country’s population— have fled their home country due to the various crises it faces. Addressing the very urgent needs of these refugees and migrants has been a crucial priority of the U.S. government’s Venezuelan relief efforts. Thus, as part of the U.S. aid to Venezuela, approximately $103 million will go through the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) to provide direct aid to Venezuelans beyond the country’s borders.
In its statement announcing the funding, the U.S. State Department elaborated, “This new funding through PRM supports a wide range of life-saving humanitarian programs for Venezuelan refugees and migrants, such as emergency shelter; access to health care; water, sanitation and hygiene supplies; increased access to education; support for livelihoods; COVID-19 support and protection for vulnerable groups…”
As, according to the UNHCR, the second largest recorded external displacement of human beings in the history of the Americas, there is still much to do in order to address the many humanitarian issues these migrants and refugees face. Through this new funding from the State Department, a good deal of displaced Venezuelans can begin gaining access to life-saving aid and relief.
With a range of obstacles still in the way of Venezuela’s economic and political stability, such as the tense dispute over the Venezuelan presidency, a skyrocketing poverty rate, frequent food and medicine shortages and, according to the UNHCR, an estimated 5,000 Venezuelans fleeing the country per day, the crises facing Venezuela show no indication of disappearing anytime soon.
However, this announcement at the Summit of the Americas certainly indicates the U.S.’ continued commitment to bringing aid to Venezuela in the midst of these harsh challenges, both inside and outside of the country.
Since 2017, the U.S. has given roughly $1.4 billion in humanitarian assistance to Venezuela and has become the “single largest donor of humanitarian aid to people affected by [its crises],” according to the U.S. Department of State. With this continued U.S. commitment to stability and relief, the future of the Venezuelan people might not be as bleak as many would make it out to be.
– Riley Wooldridge