Venezuela’s crisis, fueled by the former Maduro regime’s mismanagement and corruption, has been devastating for Venezuelan women.
The regime has targeted women engaged in political activism with threats and exclusion from social programs, according to a July 5 U.N. human rights report. Women and girls held in detention by the regime have been subjected to torture and sexual violence.
The dire health situation in Venezuela, including medicine shortages and electricity blackouts, is driving thousands of pregnant Venezuelans to go abroad to give birth. According to news reports, 25,000 Venezuelan babies have been born in Colombia since 2015.
Migration is dangerous and difficult, and it puts unborn children at risk of being born pre-term or with a low birth weight. But for expectant mothers and their unborn children who remain in Venezuela, the odds of dying are even higher. According to statistics released by the Venezuelan government and cited by the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), maternal mortality in Venezuela increased 65 percent from 2015 to 2016. In that same period, child mortality in the six days after birth rose 53 percent.
Once their babies are born, Venezuelan mothers struggle to secure medical care, infant formula and diapers. Shortages of sanitary napkins make menstruation particularly difficult for women.
Venezuela’s economic and security conditions also expose women and girls to sexual violence, human trafficking and other forms of exploitation both at home and in other countries. Human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Venezuela, as well as Venezuelan victims abroad, according to the State Department’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons report. Venezuelan refugees and other displaced persons are forced to navigate health care, education and other public services as they struggle to care for their families.
In response, the U.S. has provided more than $376 million in funding for the Venezuelan regional crisis response, including nearly $334 million in humanitarian aid and $43 million in economic and development assistance since the start of fiscal year 2017.