Venezuela’s Humanitarian Crisis and the Role of Faith-Based Organizations
Once the richest country in Latin America boasting a genuine democracy, Venezuela today is undergoing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. In large part, this crisis has been of the government’s own making — a result of extremely poor and predatory governance. The suffering experienced by Venezuelans has been compounded by severe human rights violations against the country’s political opposition and pro-democracy civil society.
Venezuelans have migrated from the country in massive numbers, while those left behind are deprived of income opportunities, basic healthcare, adequate nutrition, and access to clean water, and live in constant fear of violent crime. The ability of the international community, including other governments, bilateral and multilateral donor organizations, the NGO community, and the faith-based community, to respond to the crisis inside Venezuela is limited given the extreme insecurity and the government’s restrictive policies barring the entry of external assistance, and harassment of external actors.
Despite the many challenges, local faith organizations, including the historically dominant Catholic Church and a rapidly growing number of evangelical Protestant churches, are engaged as frontline humanitarian actors working to alleviate suffering. Beyond its humanitarian response, Venezuela’s faith community is also one of the only viable remaining components of an independent civil society.
The international community should expand its work with Venezuela’s local faith actors as humanitarian first responders, press for government cooperation in facilitating aid flows from the outside, and engage faith communities as influential and constructive voices to support sustainable long-term reforms that can help make Venezuela a free and prosperous nation once more.