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On the Simon Bolivar Bridge, Colombia. May 22, 2018.
Lives in turmoil


The International Rescue Committee supports partners to provide lifesaving assistance to people in Venezuela whose lives have been shattered by violence and instability. We are also assisting Venezuelan refugees who have sought safety in Colombia.

Country facts
  • Population: 31.8 million
  • People displaced by crisis: Over 4 million Venezuelans have left the country since 2015 (U.N. figures)
  • Rank in Human Development Index: 71 (2015)
IRC response
  • Started supporting partners in Venezuela - 2018

Venezuela crisis briefing

Since 2015, 4 million Venezuelans have left the country due to growing insecurity, instability and violence. Inside the country, food, medicine and other basic goods have become increasingly hard to come by and out of reach for millions. The IRC launched an emergency response to provide lifesaving support to those in need in Venezuela and neighboring Colombia.

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What caused the current crisis in Venezuela?

Violence and a severe economic crisis have shattered the lives of millions of Venezuelans. With extreme hyperinflation gripping the country many are no longer able to afford food, rent, transportation or medicine. Hospitals are short of qualified staff and are scaling back provision of health services. They no longer have access to the drugs and supplies they need, forcing them to require patients to bring even medical gloves with them if they wish to be treated. 

As political conflict and economic turmoil continue to overtake Venezuela, there is no end in sight for this crisis.  Extremely high rates of violent crime and the ravaging effects of hyperinflation continue unabated, creating poverty, hunger, disease, dislocation and separation of families—and pushing Venezuelans to leave their homes by the thousands on a daily basis. 

What are the main humanitarian challenges in Venezuela?

Most Venezuelans have very little or no money and are therefore at risk of being exploited by violent groups. Women and children are at high risk of falling prey to trafficking rings, or being forced to resort to negative coping strategies such as child labor for survival. Families are being torn apart as parents make the impossible decision to leave the country in search of income to send back to support their children. The children being left behind often stay with teenage siblings or elderly relatives who may be struggling to feed themselves, putting them at risk of neglect and abuse. Young people wandering the streets searching for food is a common sight in Venezuela’s cities.

Venezuela continues to be plagued by high homicide rates, malnutrition, and the spread of diseases such as malaria, measles and TB. The health system has collapsed, chronic conditions are being untreated, and outbreaks of preventable diseases such as measles are on the rise.

How does the IRC help in Venezuela?

The IRC’s mission is to help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future.

In 2018, the IRC launched an emergency response, supporting partners operating inside Venezuela. Through our partners we are helping to deliver vital health care to Venezuelans, including telemedicine (remote) services and access to basic medicines. We are also providing delivery kits for mothers who are about to give birth to bring to the hospital. 

As thousands of Venezuelans continue to flee the country each day, the IRC is also responding in neighboring Colombia, where we are focusing on protecting children and adolescents; protecting and empowering women; providing access to health care; and supporting people’s economic wellbeing.  

What still needs to be done?

The IRC’s work supporting partners in Venezuela is more critical than ever as the lives of millions of Venezuelans deteriorate due to economic crisis and conflict. We pledge to put the needs of those most affected by crisis, specifically women and girls, at the forefront of our efforts and to achieve measurable improvements.

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