THE VENEZUELAN HUMANITARIAN CRISIS: EMPOWERING WOMEN AND GIRL REFUGEES IS CRITICAL

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

The mass displacement of people in Venezuela is a result of the humanitarian crisis – violence and insecurity, as well as a lack of access to food, medicine and essential services inside the country. More than 5 million people from Venezuela have been displaced, impacting 17 countries in the global region – countries who are also facing health and economic challenges of their own due to the pandemic.

Plan International Canada is actively working in host communities to Stop the Setback of rights and address the urgent humanitarian needs facing children, and particularly girls – both among refugees and migrants from Venezuela and those local to the settlement communities.

Adolescent girls are affected by the Venezuelan crisis in unique ways. Displaced girls, adolescents and women are at increased risk of recruitment and use by armed groups. They are also vulnerable to sexual and other forms of gender-based violence, trafficking and discrimination. In addition, they face barriers to basic health services, education and securing safe shelter.

BRINGING FORWARD THE VOICES OF REFUGEE AND MIGRANT GIRLS

On June 17, 2021, Canada hosted the International Donors’ Conference in Solidarity with Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants to recognize the international community’s support and to mobilize additional resources. The conference presented a timely opportunity to show solidarity with children who are refugees or migrants from Venezuela, assuring them that the world has not forgotten about them, and bringing forward the voices of those most impacted.

Despite facing many hardships, women and adolescent girls have incredible potential to contribute to decision-making and taking up leadership roles and responsibilities in responding to crises like COVID-19.

In refugee and displacement camps, girls and young women are using their skills and resilience to address issues, such as the lack of money, food and safety, which continually affect their lives. But too often they are not only exposed to added dangers, they are denied their human rights, including the chance to tap into their power: to protect themselves, as well as contribute to overcoming shared challenges.

PROBLEMS FACED BY REFUGEES DURING COVID-19

Refugee and displacement camps are chronically overcrowded and measures to avoid community spread of the virus, such as social distancing and frequent hand washing, are difficult to implement. In addition, lack of access to basic amenities, such as clean running water, soap, face masks and vital health information make avoiding infection a serious challenge.

The pandemic has consequences for everyone, but some groups are particularly more at risk. Based on our research, the impact of COVID-19 on girls and women – on their health, safety and opportunities for education and secure jobs – is making an already difficult situation much worse.

COVID-19 is impacting women and girls’ lives in 3 major ways:

1. LIMITED ACCESS TO EDUCATION

Girls living in refugee camps or who are internally displaced, are already at a disadvantage in accessing education, especially at a secondary level where girls are only half as likely to enroll in high school in comparison to their male peers. With the closure of schools due to COVID-19, a girl’s access to both official and alternative forms of learning is further restricted. They have little or no opportunity to learn remotely due to limited internet connectivity and access to online resources.

The closure of schools in refugee camps is also depriving girls of a safe, protective environment, critical health programs and psychosocial support. Our research further shows that the longer-term effects of lockdowns on girls’ education include increased rates of early, forced and child marriage. In addition, when schools eventually reopen, some children and young people, including married and pregnant girls and young women, will find it difficult to return to the classroom.

2. ECONOMIC INSTABILITY

Some refugee camps have significant restrictions on movement, reducing livelihood opportunities as many girls and women rely on trades and work in nearby cities to help support their families. COVID-19 combined with economic insecurity makes this impossible.

Also, as families face economic strains from COVID-19, child marriage and child labour can increase too.

3. VIOLENCE

The incidence of intimate partner violence (IPV) and other forms of gender-based violence within homes is increasing, as movement restrictions and food and economic insecurity increase tensions and pre-existing gender inequalities.

Many essential social protection services and reporting programs are either severely reduced or completely stopped, making it even harder for young women and girls to get the help they need.

SUPPORT OUR WORK ON GLOBAL MIGRATION CRISES

In addition to the situation in Venezuela, Plan International continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in some of the most affected countries and hard-to-reach communities around the globe, helping Stop the Setback of rights and progress.

Through our work, we support some of the largest displaced populations around the world in countries such as the Central African Republic, Nigeria, Uganda, Ethiopia and Bangladesh. When it comes to addressing the urgent needs of refugee and internally displaced populations, our priorities are:

  • Protecting children’s health
  • Improving access to water and sanitation
  • Supporting education
  • Ensuring all children are protected
  • Preventing gender-based violence
  • Community engagement and raising awareness.

You can make a difference by donating to our work, helping us reach more vulnerable children – especially marginalized girls – and their families with the lifesaving information, tools and resources they need to protect themselves from COVID-19.

Help protect and empower girls, save lives and be part of creating a more equal world, starting today.

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