The Chávez government introduced changes to improve life for vulnerable families
Children who can’t live with their families, find a new home in an SOS family (photo: SOS archives)
The discovery of massive oil deposits in Lake Maracaibo in the early 20th century transformed the country's economy and had a significant impact on Venezuela's weight in the global political arena.
In 1998 Hugo Chávez was elected president, and in 1999 a new constitution was approved by popular referendum. Chavez’s government started a wide range of social welfare programmes to fight poverty and reduce inequality. In general terms, and in some areas, these measures worked well; the poverty rate dropped and more people had access to free health care, education and social housing.
In recent years, however, families have been living with shortages and insecurity
Recently, however, the situation has changed, and Venezuela is going through a time of great uncertainty. As the price of oil has fallen drastically, the government has invested less in its social programmes. This has had serious consequences for many families.
More and more families are struggling to feed their children and buy basic goods. The prices are rising constantly. Venezuela has one of the highest inflation rates in South America: it was 67 per cent in 2014. To make matters worse, many basic goods are scarce. When they are available, people have to queue for hours in order to buy food, diapers, soap, toilet paper and other necessities.
The number of people living in poverty increased in 2013, and in 2014 it reached 27 per cent. Also in 2014, protests against the government ended in over 40 deaths and thousands of arrests.
There is likewise a shortage of many medicines, even in hospitals. Thousands of patients can’t get essential medical care, and as a result, lives are at risk.
Venezuela is an extremely dangerous country: it has one of the highest numbers of violent deaths in the world. Around 24, 000 people were murdered in 2013. Violence is high in all cities, but Caracas is particularly unsafe.
Children and young people are at risk
Young men taking part in a workshop on the prevention of HIV/AIDS (photo: SOS archives)
Around 10.3 million Venezuelans are under the age of 18.
From 1999 onwards the Venezuelan government significantly increased spending to improve the lives of children and introduced measures to protect children and adolescents, particularly focusing on children from indigenous communities. However, in this area too, the situation has changed in the past couple of years; every aspect of children’s daily life has been negatively affected by the recent fall in the standard of living.
Although practically all children enrol in primary school, not all finish it. The number attending secondary school drops significantly: 43.3 per cent of girls and only 29.5 per cent of boys actually go to high school. Young people, even those who have completed their education, often find it hard to find a job due to the high levels of unemployment.
In spite of efforts to end child labour, around eight per cent of children between the ages of 10-15 continue to work. Some of these children are forced to work to survive; others do so to support their families.
SOS Children's Villages in Venezuela
In Venezuela we support families who are at risk of breaking down and give loving homes to children who have lost parental care.
Family strengthening: The SOS Family Strengthening Programmes started in 2002. We work directly with communities to empower them to protect and care for their children. Collaborating with local agencies and authorities, each family strengthening programme provides different services which can include day care for young children, training so that parents can set up small businesses, and workshops on child protection and health care.
Care in families: Children who have lost parental care can find a home in SOS families in SOS Children’s Villages Ciudad Ojeda, La Cañada and Maracay. Brothers and sisters grow up together and are cared for by an SOS mother, who ensures that they receive the support they need. Children go to local schools and take part in neighbourhood activities which ensures that they are well integrated into the community.
Support for young adults: Our SOS Youth Programmes provide young people with support until they are able to live independently. Great attention is paid to ensure they receive the right kind of education and training so that they can get a job.