Maracaíbo is in north-western Venezuela and is the capital of Zulia state, which is also the oil metropolis of Venezuela. It is the second-largest city after the national capital, Caracas. The wider metropolitan area population of Maracaíbo is 2.3 million, and has been growing at a rate of 1-2% annually.
Maracaíbo is also home to Lake Maracaíbo, the largest lake in South America. The lake is now unfortunately, polluted from leaking oil.
Since 1979, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Maracaibo.
In Venezuela, 51% of families are living in poverty. An erratic oil economy has left families without basic needs
In Maracaíbo, soaring inflation rates has left families without access to basic needs such as safe drinking water, food, electricity and medicine. There a shortage of all these goods, some of which can be obtained on the black market. But the prices are not affordable for many families who have a low income.
These circumstances force children to abandon school to find work to help pull together an income for their families. These circumstances have trapped children in a persistent poverty cycle.
The city of Maracaíbo has one of the highest rates of crime in Venezuela. Crime often involves breaking the law to get basic needs that are in short supply. Circumstances are so dire that even medical equipment for fundamental medical needs is at risk of being stolen.
Organized crime activities have expanded to involve schooling children to facilitate narcotics operations across the country. Forced recruitment, as well as the appeal of drug money, means vulnerable children engage in the criminal activities.