Venezuela, the needs in remote and border areas

Venezuela has been experiencing a serious socio-political and economic crisis over the last years, resulting in one of the largest refugee crises in the world. In the states of Amazonas and Apure, we assist the most vulnerable population, providing protection, access to health, access to clean water and education.

There are currently 7.6 million people in need of humanitarian aid in Venezuela – about one in four Venezuelans – and millions of people do not have access to sufficient quantities of food or adequate health care because the economic crisis has eroded the country’s health infrastructure and essential services. Access to clean water and sanitation also remains a challenge for the most vulnerable communities, with some 4.3 million people in need of drinking water. Water availability is also critical in health and education facilities.

Access to school is increasingly complex, with inadequate infrastructure, lack of teachers, reduced learning times and interruptions. It is estimated that 900,000 children are out of school, at least 1.3 million are at risk of dropping out and 270,000 are in vulnerable situations, increasing children and adolescents’ risk of experiencing violence, exploitation, child labour and human trafficking.

Inflation in the country continues to rise: between 2022 and 2023, the cost of basic food items increased by almost 350%, resulting in increased food insecurity among the population. According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), food insecurity will reach crisis levels for about 2 million people in Venezuela in 2024. The increasing cost of essential goods and services also leads the most vulnerable people to resort to harmful survival strategies, such as child labour and sex work.


The migration crisis

The Venezuelan crisis is the biggest refugee crisis in Latin America and one of the biggest in the world.

7.7 million Venezuelans have fled the country, finding refuge largely in other Latin American countries and the Caribbean. Even in host countries, however, Venezuelans struggle to access stable housing and jobs and take different paths. Some people choose to continue their journey to other countries, some choose to return to Venezuela, and some others move back and forth between Venezuela and neighbouring countries in an endless commute to try to access basic services and obtain a livelihood. According to the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, more than 300,000 citizens have returned to the country since September 2020.

Health and legal assistance in the state of Apure

The Venezuelan state of Apure is situated on the border with Colombia and has therefore been one of the main transit territories for national migration in recent years, with those who leave, those who return, and those who constantly cross the border in search of a dignified life. Along the 2,200-kilometre border that separates Venezuela from Colombia – and more precisely near the Apure-Arauca border – the instability and insecurity in that area contribute to creating a risky environment for both migrants and the local population.

The chronic socio-economic fragility of the country has exacerbated the living conditions of the most vulnerable groups, who here, in the state of Apure, find themselves most at risk of marginalisation, violence – including gender-based violence – discrimination, exploitation and abuse of various kinds.

Access to health is limited, medical facilities are scarce and often unreachable for the majority of the local population, due to long distances and lack of public transport.

INTERSOS has been intervening precisely on this issue for about two years: bringing free medical care and legal support where it is lacking. Humanitarian workers move around the area to ensure the health and protection of migrants and local rural communities affected by the global crisis and the escalation of armed conflict in the area. On the other hand, legal support activities are concentrated in some localities, such as El Amparo and Las Canoas, where statelessness is also found among the assisted persons. In recent years, in fact, many families have crossed the border to find better living conditions in Colombia, but after some time some of them have returned to Venezuela. All the children who were born on Colombian territory to Venezuelan parents in those years are today not recognised by the Venezuelan state, due to the lack of birth registration. INTERSOS legal staff deal with this condition, helping families with the legal processes to initiate citizenship applications and allow their children to finally have access to all basic essential services.



Persons assisted with protection services


People granted Venezuelan citizenship


People received the ID document

Elis was born two years ago in Colombia. His parents are Venezuelan but, like many other compatriots, left their country during the hardest years of the economic and social crisis. “After trying to build a new life in Colombia, we decided to return home. Maybe we will leave again in a while, but for now, this is the only possible solution,” Maria says while holding her son Elis in her arms. “He was born during the two years he fled Venezuela, that is why he is now stateless. His birth was not registered here and for the authorities he does not exist”. We meet Maria on ‘Identification Day’ in El Amparo. INTERSOS, in a network with other humanitarian organisations operating in the area, gives stateless migrants the opportunity to be legally assisted to start the paperwork and obtain Venezuelan citizenship. “My biggest fear was not being able to guarantee any rights to my son,” says Maria, “without the birth certificate I couldn’t enrol him in school, for example. I can’t let this happen, that’s why I’m here today, to ask for help and to give my son a future as a citizen”.

Amazonas: access to school in remote communities

The economic crisis that has afflicted Venezuela for several years has led many teachers to leave the country because of minimal salaries, and today most schools show a shortage in the number of teaching staff.

The limited economic resources of families are also insufficient to cover the costs associated with the school, which is very often located in areas much distant from the villages. Reaching the schools sometimes means walking miles and miles inside the forest or navigating the river for several hours.

Another barrier, sometimes decisive in access to education, is the lack of identity documents (such as birth certificates and citizenship), a dynamic that often occurs among the indigenous population again because of the great distances to urban centres and services that allow birth registration, the lack of information on procedures, and the high economic costs associated with the paperwork. Difficulties in accessing documentation make children invisible – to the state – and they thus become stateless in their own country, resulting in an inability to access national public services, including education.

For the past year, with the support of the European Union, INTERSOS activities in the state of Amazonas have focused on schools. Working on the health of the school system, facilitating access to safe, dignified and inclusive formal education for vulnerable children. This is done by working on two parallel lines: the involvement of children with educational, recreational and psychosocial activities and the pedagogical training of teaching staff from indigenous communities.

In order to strengthen a fragile education system, the improvement of school facilities, which often lack essential tools such as school materials or have more or less serious problems with the usability and safety of the facilities themselves, also plays a key role. 100% of the schools assessed by our team in Amazonas lack adequate infrastructure and are in a deteriorating condition. On the other hand, 92% of the schools surveyed report a lack of equipment, materials and furniture.

School, for minors, can become a lifesaver, especially in a social and economic context such as that of the indigenous communities of Amazonas, where the risk of school drop-out and consequent child labour is very high. Some local teachers, interviewed by our field workers, reported that, in 2023 alone, a 27% drop-out rate was reached in 10 schools in Amazonas. A figure that is certainly lower than the real one because of an undercount that is almost impossible to calculate, due to the inaccessibility of many areas located in the heart of the forest.



Children sensitised on good hygiene practices and importance of education


Children participated in catch-up classes


Trained teachers


People received legal assistance


People received psychosocial support

To reach the indigenous community of San Pablo from the municipality of Manapiare one has to walk for a whole week. The state of Amazonas is so large that the distances sometimes prevent the different communities from meeting, as well as having access to the main services. Aure is 17 years old and says she made a choice that changed her life for this very reason. “My mother lives in Manapiare, my father here in San Pablo, where there is a school. I decided to move here with him so I could study. It was the only choice I could make to be able to continue studying”. She says that many of her peers no longer study, partly for economic reasons – they start working very early to help their families – and partly because they do not have a school near their villages. Aure wants to become a nurse, and to do so she is willing to leave her community for a while, she dreams of travelling and studying outside. “In Colombia maybe, I would like to enrol in university there and then come back and help my people here, at home“.

INTERSOS in Venezuela

INTERSOS has been present in Venezuela since December 2019, with an established presence in the states of Táchira, Mérida, Barinas, Amazonas and in the Ezequiel Zamora municipality of the state of Barinas. We carry out projects in protection, access to health, nutrition, access to water and sanitation, and emergency education.

In the protection sector, our activities focus on case management, child protection, gender-based violence, and psychological and psychosocial support. We also offer legal assistance and promote access to basic services for IDPs, returnees, migrants and vulnerable populations in Venezuela.

In the health sector, we provide free and integrated primary health care services, as well as specialised services in sexual and reproductive health, maternal and child health and donations of medicines.

The basis of our interventions in the country is the integrated protection and healthcare response and a general approach to strengthening communities.