SEATTLE, Washington — As the world watches the situation unfold in Venezuela, people are rallying to answer the call for humanitarian aid. Humanitarian organizations are putting together efforts to try and assuage the problems brought on by economic collapse. The aid delivered by the United States has become a major point of contention in the tug of war for political control of Venezuela. Aid to Venezuela is critical to relieving the poverty caused by the economic collapse.
The U.S. is leading the charge to raise funds for bringing aid to Venezuela by providing 180 tons of aid. The U.S. government has more than $48 million earmarked for humanitarian assistance to Venezuela. Most of these funds are implemented through the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Venezuela’s oil-dependent economy took a sharp decline in 2014 when oil prices shifted. Since then, inflation levels have risen as high as 4 percent a day, leaving Venezuelan currency worth less than the paper it is printed on. Cash is of so little worth that some Venezuelans make handicrafts out of bills. Medicine and food have become unattainable for many in Venezuela who cannot afford basic needs.
Juan Guaidó and Nicolás Maduro both consider themselves to be the legitimate president of the country. On February 15, 2019, Nicolás Maduro deployed the military to the Colombian border to stop American aid from entering the country. As a result, millions of dollars worth of aid is sitting in warehouses in the Colombian city of Cúcuta on the border between Colombia and Venezuela.
Humanitarian assistance in the form of stockpiled food, health products and hygiene kits among others are waiting to assist the victims of Venezuela’s catastrophic economy. American military planes continue to drop off tons of supplies while humanitarian workers strategize the eventual distribution of aid to Venezuela.
Getting Aid Into Venezuela
USAID and Guaidó’s people are cooperating to produce a plan to distribute aid as soon as the products can cross the border and volunteers can move safely. They have developed a list that prioritizes which areas are in most dire need. Meanwhile, volunteer groups from within Venezuela gather in camps to work out the logistics of transporting and distributing aid products. Some of the volunteers worry the Venezuelan military will target the groups.
With the whole world watching, Guaidó has called for one million volunteers to gather at the Colombian border to confront the armed forces. The volunteers will wear white to symbolize their peaceful intent as they demand that the military let the aid through in a showdown scheduled for February 23, 2019.
The decision by many members of the military to either defy Maduro and let the aid in or remain loyal could be a major turning point in the Venezuelan power struggle. Guaidó and other officials proclaim Maduro’s denial of the aid a crime against the Venezuelan people. Maduro claims the aid is a political stunt and a cover for the U.S. to interfere with Venezuelan affairs.
American Aid for Venezuela
The American government has been very vocal about supporting the delivery and distribution of aid to Venezuela. Several prominent U.S. political figures, including President Donald Trump and Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, have made public appeals to the Venezuelan military to let aid into the country. Florida Senator Marco Rubio has become especially involved, even making a trip down to Colombia to visit the aid facilities.
The U.S. has also allocated close to $140 million to assist neighboring host countries for Venezuelan refugees. More than three million people have migrated from Venezuela to Colombia, Brazil, Peru and other Latin American countries due to the economic crisis.
Large amounts of aid have been distributed to Venezuelan refugees in these host countries and many people are doing their best to provide basic services for the refugees. One woman in Colombia has taken it upon herself to build a cemetery. She provides a proper burial for migrant Venezuelans whose families could not otherwise afford any kind of ceremonial resting place.
Organizations Providing Aid
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are working to coordinate humanitarian efforts across the many host nations and nongovernmental organizations. They also map out migration routes and attempt to plan for the continued displacement of Venezuelan people.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is working to curb the spread of infectious diseases among refugees. By increasing technical assistance to field offices, PAHO improves health services for Venezuelan refugees. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) provides education and improves protections for children in these refugee communities.
All these organizations and governments have been able to bring aid to Venezuela with the help of public donations. In some places, like in Florida, people hold collection drives to gather donations for people in need. Others contribute by donating funds directly to the various humanitarian organizations involved in the Venezuela crisis.
The fight to get aid to Venezuela remains hopeful. The people and the resources are gathering to trickle in some relief to those who have struggled for so long. In spite of the political situation, humanitarians will keep strategizing to help Venezuelans in need. If more people have access to basic needs, the region has a chance at becoming more stable.
– Peter Mayer