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There have been changes in the legal and institutional frameworks over the past decade in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, including the creation of a system for the protection of children and adolescents. About 40 per cent per cent of the population is under 17 years of age, with a significant African-descendant representation and 2.2 per cent per cent belonging to indigenous groups. Social spending has increased, with priority on the implementation of programmes called ‘misiones’ (missions) aimed at social mobilization and decreasing disparities. However, more than a quarter per cent of the population still lives in poverty.
Even though Venezuela was not one of countries in the region hit the hardest by the global financial crisis, that crisis had an impact on the national economy, which declined by 1 per cent in the first half of 2009, after five years of sustained growth.
Issues facing children in Venezuela
- Infant mortality has been reduced but maternal mortality remains high, considering that 95 per cent of births take place in health facilities.
- At least 21 per cent of children under five exhibit some degree of malnutrition.
- Teenage pregnancy affects a significant number of young people, in most cases involving unwanted pregnancies.
- The indicator of exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months is still very low (27.9 per cent).
- Violence affects a large number of children and women. In most cases, the abuse happens at home.
- Many children lack access to education and health services – particularly indigenous and Afro-descendant children.
- Thousands of children and adolescents have no birth certificates.
- There is an increase in the incidence of HIV in young people aged 15 to 25 and an increasing feminization of the epidemic; 57 per cent of the HIV-positive population up to 14 years of age are girls. From 2005 to 2007 (the last report available), the number of deaths from AIDS in young people between 15 and 25 increased steadily.
Activities and results for children
- The goal of reducing extreme poverty by half was completed in 2007, with poverty declining from 25 per cent to 12.5 per cent, and dropping again in 2009 to 8.7 per cent.
- From 2003 to 2007, per capita spending on education of children and adolescents grew by 51.8 per cent, highlighting the progressive increase in investment in education.
- 95 per cent of the population has access to drinking water and 93 per cent has access to sanitation services.
- The sustained reduction of child labour is confirmed for both genders.
- The Venezuelan state is promoting the principle of social responsibility in both the public and private sectors, including the promotion of community participation through the formation of Communal Councils and communes.
- The National Identity Programme, including the installation of hospital units for the civil registry of births, has had the technical and financial support of UNICEF. Birth registration coverage increased from 80 per cent to 95 per cent between 2001 and 2007.
- UNICEF supports national and local initiatives for early childhood education and intercultural and bilingual education with indigenous populations.
- UNICEF has promoted and participated in interagency partnerships in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
- UNICEF provides humanitarian assistance in emergency situations, having supported back-to-school programmes for the children affected, as well as psycho-social recovery programmes.
- UNICEF has promoted social mobilization for tolerance, coexistence and other civic values.
- The National Plan for the Prevention of Violence and for Women’s Equality, including information and dissemination campaigns, has UNICEF’s support.