The Venezuelan migration crisis occupies the painful place of the second worst human mobility crisis in the world, after Syria. With more than 4.5 million people having left their country, from which close to 30% are girls, boys and adolescents, the situation still does not receive enough attention from the public or in the global media. As a consequence, the risks and needs of the refugees and migrants, mainly the girls, adolescents and young women, remain scorned.
As the crisis continues, the vulnerability of those that quit Venezuela sharpens, given the electric blackouts and the shortage of water, food and medicines. Simultaneously, the profile of the people migrating has changed, as more and more non-accompanied children, single women, pregnant women, and women head of household - in charge of various children - decide to undertake their journey to other countries.
The risks to which the refugees and migrants are exposed, are highly known by the Venezuelans even before leaving their country. Girls and women faced even more risks, as sexual violence and gender-based violence have become systematic mechanisms of oppression and cohesion. Helena*, a 16-year-old adolescent that travels alone, recalls with horror the travel she undertook with a woman and her baby: “We never talked with the driver. Once we arrived, the woman tried to leave with her baby but the driver took her hand and told her that she had to pay. That she could not leave without having sex with him.”
In the case of the adolescents, their vulnerability increases as they are doubly stigmatised by their sex and age. In fact, people between 10 and 19 years old are frequently neglected during humanitarian responses worldwide, while the access to basic services is highly limited for women, even if they are more exposed to violence, abuse, neglect and sexual exploitation.
Protecting and empowering adolescents in crisis has become one of the main goals of the humanitarian agenda from Plan International. Since 2018, the organisation has undertaken a regional response to the Venezuela migration crisis in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, focused on delivering services and support concerning protection, education, economic empowerment, participation and social cohesion for vulnerable Venezuelans in transit and settled, as well as host communities. In 2019, actions inside Venezuela started being implemented, through 3 local partners, in the sectors of Education in Emergencies (EiE) and Water, Hygiene and Sanitation (WASH).
The migration crisis is a phenomenon without precedent for the region. Conscious of its impact in the short and long term, mainly concerning the rights of the boys, girls and adolescents and their personal development, Plan International works hard on promoting sustainable and inclusive practices, that challenge harmful social practices and gender’s inequity.
Debora Cobar, Regional Director of Plan International in the Americas explains: “We need to address the crisis from a humanitarian view, able to respond to the urgent needs of the refugees and migrants, at the same time as it strengthens lasting socio-political links that will allow us to build more inclusive, equal and conscious societies of the difficulties faced by the girls and women, given their gender.”
*The name was changed due to security reasons