In Peru, migrant families face the pandemic with the help of cash transfers
UNICEF launched a programme of multipurpose, non-conditional economic transfers designed specifically for Venezuelan families.
In the midst of an unprecedented socio-economic crisis in Peru brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF supports migrant families through a monetary transfer programme, guidance, and accompaniment.
LIMA, Peru - Daniela Sánchez Rosales had dreamt about turning fifteen her entire life, but the big day arrived in the most unexpected circumstances. She had been living in Lima, Peru, with her family for the past two years when the first local case of COVID-19 was detected. Shortly after, a mandatory quarantine was declared and Peru would become one of the countries most affected by the pandemic. Separated from her friends and estranged from her family back in her native Venezuela, Daniela turned 15. Her favorite aunt, who had promised to design her dress for the big day, sent her a message promising a party even when she turns 20. “I cried a lot that day after receiving the message,” Daniela recalls.
The Sánchez Rosales family arrived in Lima in 2018 in search of better opportunities, along with more than 850,000 Venezuelans who have arrived in the country over the past three years. Once here, many experienced difficulties obtaining personal documentation or facing the challenges of an informal job market or the stigmas that developed around Venezuelan migrants in certain sectors of Peruvian society.
Jackson, Daniela’s father, found employment in a transportation company and the family moved to the north side of Lima, renting a two-room apartment in the San Martin de Porres district.
“I remember back there (in Venezuela), we had a garden and lots of family, and a house of our own, but we can’t have one like that here,” remarks Samuel, Daniela’s ten-year-old brother.
“I didn’t want to come,” Daniela confesses. “(But) we couldn’t manage back there; we couldn’t survive with what my father and mother earned.”
A year later, the family’s situation began to stabilize. Jackson worked ten-hour days as a driver and his wife - Inés - found work as a teacher in a primary school. The children attended public school, had friends, and had managed to blend in quickly with the neighborhood community.
That’s when COVID-19 struck Peru. “When the coronavirus got here, I didn’t think the world would come to a halt so suddenly. I was surprised because we had so many plans for this year. In December of last year, we said ‘this is our year’ and then we had to live through the pandemic” Daniela regrets.
The national quarantine lasted 107 days and had a profound impact on employment and family earnings - in a context where over 70% of workers in Peru rely on the informal job market.
The blow was nearly immediate for Venezuelan families.
“They already faced levels of overcrowding in homes far superior to averages for the Peruvian population, in addition to situations that affect children and adolescents - such as more than half of the school-aged population not attending school before the pandemic. To that, we have to add that a third of Venezuelan teenagers are working,” notes Ana Maria Güémez, a Social Policy Specialist at UNICEF.
The Peruvian government reacted to the pandemic by seeking to mitigate the socio-economic impact on families through the provision of vouchers, among other measures. But since they were not included in the census, the Venezuelan population did not receive this support.
Considering this situation, UNICEF launched - for the first time in Peru - a programme of multipurpose, non-conditional economic transfers designed specifically for Venezuelan families. Families receive a monthly transfer of 760 Soles - approximately 210 USD - for four months. The only requirement for families is that they have children, teenagers, and/or pregnant or breastfeeding women. So far, UNICEF, in collaboration with HIAS, works with over 400 households across two districts in North Lima, and the programme has funding for six monthly transfers.
“It was very useful because we managed to pay our debts and I also used part of it for food, for things for the children, and for house expenses,” recalls Inés, Daniela’s mother. Inés lost her job when the pandemic arrived.
“We know the transfers are mainly being used to cover rent, food, and medical expenses,” Güémez explains. “That’s exactly what we want, so we can avoid children losing access to goods and services that are vital to their development.”
The direct transfer programme also includes guidance and accompaniment on COVID-19 prevention, positive upbringing practices, nutritional information, violence prevention, and access to remote educational services.
Keep children learning
The school dropout rate has been, yet another expression of the problems faced by Venezuelan families during the pandemic: students stopped attending class because they lacked Internet access, television, a computer, or even a cell phone with credit to access online educational content.
The collaborative work between UNICEF and other institutions - such as the Unidad de Gestión Educativa Local, UGEL (Local Educational Management Unit tasked with the administrative and educational operation of schools in the area - identified cases of school desertion among the 400 benefited families and reconnected students with the educational system.
“We’ve been actively searching. For example, of the 77 students who had gone missing in San Martin de Porres, we’ve been able to recover 53,” explains Elizabeth Chuquín, Educational Service Support Team Coordinator for the local UGEL.
Whilst Inés has never had to worry about her children dropping out of school, she struggles every day with the difficulties of remote learning. “We have some limitations, as we don’t have a computer. (Daniela) has to do her homework on a cell phone and sometimes the assignments are very long. She feels frustrated locked up in here; she wants to go to school,” Inés points out.
Daniela dreams of being a journalist and Samuel chooses a different career path every day. Inés just wants them to go to university and have a better future. “That’s why I left my country, so they can study and have a nice future.”
- 400 families in North Lima are receiving the non-conditional cash transfers created by UNICEF.
- According to the National Superintendence of Migrations, more than 850,000 Venezuelans migrated to Peru over the past three years.
- Before the arrival of COVID-19, more than 50 percent of Venezuelan children and teenagers living in Peru were not enrolled in school. A third of teenagers in the Venezuelan migrant community had jobs.
 Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática, Condiciones de vida de la población venezolana que reside en Perú: Resultados de la ‘Encuesta dirigida a la población venezolana que reside en el país’ – ENPOVE-2018, INEI, Lima, Peru, June 2019, available at www.inei.gob.pe/media/MenuRecursivo/publicaciones_digitales/Est/Lib1666/libro.pdf.
 Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática, Condiciones de vida de niña, niños y adolescentes venezolanos en Perú-Subanálisis de la ENPOVE-2018, INEI, in press.