UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore's remarks at the Venezuela High-Level Donor Roundtable

As prepared for delivery

12 May 2021

NEW YORK, 12 May 2021 - "Excellencies, partners. On behalf of everyone at UNICEF — especially our tireless team on-the-ground in Venezuela — thank you for shining a light on the growing needs there.  

"The situation has not improved since our last meeting in September. In some areas — like Apure State on the Colombian border — it’s becoming dramatically worse.

"The country and its people are struggling with poverty, crime, hyperinflation and political tensions.

"The situation is a humanitarian crisis — with over seven million people urgently needing humanitarian assistance. Half are children.

"It’s a food and nutrition crisis — as David will explain.

"It’s a displacement crisis — one of the world’s fastest-growing.

"Over 5.4 million Venezuelans — including two million children — are on the move, on par with the rate of Syrians fleeing at the height of the conflict there. Another one million children are left behind in Venezuela by parents who are forced to leave. Each day, about 2,000 more people flee.

"It’s a protection crisis — both for children on the move and those left behind. Each step they take exposes them to violence, abuse, exploitation and recruitment by armed groups.

"It’s a health crisis — with crumbling, under-supplied and under-staffed health systems, and unreliable access to water.

"It’s an education crisis — with lockdowns affecting the learning of over 6.8 million children, many of whom cannot be reached with online tools because of poor connectivity, power failures and displacement.

"It’s a COVID-19 crisis — with rising and underreported cases, lack of testing and limited access to vaccines.

"And above all, the situation is a funding crisis. The Brookings Institute estimated that the international community has spent just $125 per Venezuelan in the last four years — compared to $1,500 in aid for every Syrian.

"Despite all of these challenges, UNICEF’s teams are doing all what we can. With four field offices, 10 antenna offices and 174 staff on the ground, our agency has the largest humanitarian footprint in Venezuela.

"Working with partner agencies and NGOs, we’re delivering urgent support. From health and education, to nutrition and protection, to rehabilitated rural water systems, to support for Venezuela’s COVID-19 response.

"Across all of these areas, UNICEF will stay and deliver.

"But with your continued generosity, we can do so much more.

"With your help, we can scale-up our support of the COVID-19 response. This includes building a stronger cold chain, by importing hundreds of freezers and shipping millions of units of PPE like masks, as well as syringes. This would also help us better support other routine immunizations that children desperately need — including for diphtheria and measles, which are surging.

"We could deliver more essential supplies — with UNICEF delivering nearly 1,900 tons of supplies last year, worth over $11 million.

"We could expand our innovative school feeding programme to an additional 10 states, reaching 450,000 children this year. This integrated programme is already providing hundreds of thousands of children with not only education, but a free daily meal and water, and sanitation and hygiene kits.

"We could support more internally displaced and returning children and families — getting them back into school and ensuring they’re included in the vaccine rollout.

"We could scale-up cash and incentive programming to encourage healthcare workers, teachers and protection counsellors to stay on the job. Children and families need these professionals more than ever.

"And we could continue expanding our data and monitoring activities to better target and deliver our programming.

"As a global community, we cannot stand by and watch an entire generation of young Venezuelans slip away. The future of the country, and the region, is at stake. They need our support now. Thank you."


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