Woman sitting with blanket over shoulders and holding baby (© Dolores Ochoa/AP Images)
A Venezuelan migrant woman holds a baby outside an immigration processing office after crossing the border from Colombia to Ecuador. (© Dolores Ochoa/AP Images)

Extreme poverty, malnutrition and violence. Venezuelan women and children continue to suffer because of the former Maduro regime, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

“The risks for girls, boys, and adolescents is worrying,” Bachelet said in an oral update to the U.N. Human Rights Council on December 18. “Only a minority of the population, with access to foreign currency, can regularly afford the high food prices due to hyperinflation.”

In Venezuela, the minimum wage covers 3.5 percent of food costs at the grocery store. As a result, malnutrition among women and children is rampant.

Bachelet cited another recent report on the health of pregnant women and children in 19 of Venezuela’s 24 states. The report found 48.5 percent of pregnant women suffer nutritional deficiencies and 32.6 percent of adolescents exhibit stunted growth.

This dire lack of access to health care and persistent food shortages mean families will continue to leave the country to survive elsewhere.

“The Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela estimates that 4.7 million Venezuelans have fled the country,” Bachelet said. “And it projects that this number will reach 6.5 million by the end of 2020.”

Often, entire families cannot afford to leave, so a few members will migrate and the rest are forced to stay behind.

Woman sitting on bed with infant (© Fernando Vergara/AP Images)
This Venezuelan mother said she had to flee to Colombia after she had complications from childbirth. (© Fernando Vergara/AP Images)

This struggle was caught on film by filmmaker Margarita Cadenas in her 2016 documentary Women of the Venezuelan Chaos, which was recently screened at the Organization of American States in Washington.

“There is a lot of sadness because the family cannot be together,” Cadenas said. “The family is the base of the country, and right now the family is completely destroyed.”

Cadenas captured the lives of five women as they navigated life without food and medicine, enduring violence committed by both common vandals and extrajudicial paramilitary groups.

The situation in Venezuela is worse now than when she made the film, Cadenas explained, which is why more and more people are leaving the country.

Cadenas, who has lived in Paris for 30 years, stays in touch with her family in Venezuela over WhatsApp. They tell her about the worsening situation, and she helps however she can. For example, she frequently sends her brother prescription heart medication because he has high blood pressure and needs regular doses of the medicine.

Amid the suffering, the hope for the future rests with legitimate interim President Juan Guaidó.

“The problem is, we have a dictatorship and they don’t care about the people,” Cadenas said. “Until we change the regime, the situation in Venezuela will be the same.”