The ongoing political, social and economic crisis in Venezuela has caused over five million citizens (roughly 17% of the population) to leave the country in search of better opportunities and living conditions. Unfortunately, little is known about the current state of IDPs or what obstacles they face during the relocation process.
Awareness of the current humanitarian challenges that internally displaced people face can help organizations understand Venezuelans needs and deliver aid more effectively. The population on the move is perhaps the most challenging group for humanitarian response given its dynamic nature. As part of the Juntos es Mejor Challenge, and in response to our local partners in Venezuela’s request for information, Premise launched a task targeted to those who self-identify as IDPs. We set out to understand more about their motivations to relocate and their current needs for basic services in case they plan to continue their migration further.
Several key drivers are associated with displacement in Venezuela, including economic or livelihood insecurity, food insecurity, loss of housing or shelter, lack of basic needs (like water and electricity), and lack of access to public services like healthcare and education. It is estimated that in 2021 as many as twelve million people may require aid. The protracted economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is a compound of numerous causes and effects, hyperinflation and decreasing purchase power, standard food basket items that cost a multitude of a basic salary in Venezuela, fuel shortages, failing basic public service delivery and infrastructure, blackouts impacting telecommunication and connectivity leaving hospitals and households without continuous and reliable water supply, employability and access to livelihood. All these factors contribute to the internal displacement of breadwinners or entire families moving to domestic destinations perceived to offer more viable or accessible economic opportunities or to simply sustain a livelihood.
We’ve collected over 500 responses from across the country thus far¹ and the initial data presents some interesting findings, especially when segmented by gender.
Key Insights on Internally Displaced Venezuelan’s
The main factors for internal displacement for both males and females are economic insecurity and community safety.
The biggest reason behind moving for both males and females is economic insecurity. However, females mentioned it more often by a factor of about six percentage points.
The second most commonly sighted reason for internal displacement is a lack of security in the community. Last year Venezuela recorded a homicide rate of 60.3 per 100,000, making it the most violent country in Latin America for the 3rd year. Males reported this about 5% more than women, although it is hard to say if this means that they might be targeted more often or if there is another factor between the different response rates.
The main factor influencing the chosen destination is knowing someone in that location who can potentially offer shelter, food, water and other basic necessities.
When asked why they choose their new destination within Venezuela, the responses were also enlightening. Both males and females noted that friends and family already present in a new place was the most significant motivating factor in their selection; however, females mentioned it about 7% more than males. This could be because males often will move locations first to secure work or housing with the rest of the family following later. Both 20% of males and females noted better housing opportunities as key reasons they choose a new location.
The disparity in selecting destinations based on study opportunities is notable between males and females.
About 21% of males determined educational opportunities as a principal reason to move versus just around 13% of females. This could also be due to a higher degree of emphasis and expectation of males to pursue educational opportunities rather than females.
A higher percentage of respondents mentioned Anzoategui and Amazonas as their departure states and Aragua and Distrito Capital as the states where they are currently located.
As expected, respondents are mostly leaving states with higher displaced people looking to relocate into states with higher opportunities to find housing or shelter, work and food. About 30% of respondents say they left Anzoategui and Amazonas. There also appears to be a slight reduction (~1.5%) in the percentage of people living in the urban area of Distrito Capital. This reduction could be indicating a process of reverse immigration in which migrant workers return to their areas of origin as a consequence of the economic shrinkage brought by COVID-19.
Migrating from one place to another is a slow process; it takes at least a month to reach a new location, regardless of if this is the final destination.
Both duration of travel and the amount of time contributors planned to stay in the new location was also of interest. More than 92% of males said it took them at least a month to travel to their new location, with a quarter of the reporting that it took more than one year to move locations. Slightly more female respondents said it took them less than a week, but over half said it took them over six months to over a year to move. Financial constraints and fuel shortages could be factors in why relocating is so time-consuming for many Venezuelans.
Many respondents mentioned they plan to continue their journey, and that their current location is only temporary.
Interestingly, most respondents (65% of both males and females) said this move was only temporary. Several factors could influence this outlook, including the knowledge that the humanitarian crisis is affecting all regions of Venezuela and the desire to move abroad once travel restrictions are relaxed.
For males, work opportunities and housing are a main motivator for those looking to move to a new location, while females continue to seek locations with family or friends that can provide support.
Both work opportunities and the desire to move to a location with family and friends already present were the main reasons both male and female respondents planned to move again. Over 40% of males said that finding better work opportunities was the main reason they planned to leave their current location. This compares with 28% of females underscoring perhaps a slightly greater emphasis on males feeling the need to support their families financially. Thirty percent of females reported that moving to be closer to family and friends was a top priority, compared to a quarter of male respondents. This shows the overall importance of having a social support network close by during difficult times.
While housing is the main humanitarian challenge communicated by our network, food is closely followed by both males and females.
With Venezuelans facing increased economic constraints and a national fuel shortage, many IDPs can take well over a month and sometimes up to a year to move to a new location. Given the length of time for transit, it makes sense that housing and food are a top concern during the relocation process, especially since most Venezuelans have barely enough income to make ends meet. A relatively low proportion of both males and females cited child and elderly care and legal assistance as key priorities. This highlights the fact that many Venezuelans are simply trying to meet their basic needs in the current humanitarian crisis before dealing with other concerns.
The next destination is…Venezuela.
The respondents in our survey indicate that there is a percentage of people that plan to migrate internationally, but at least 70% are planning to stay within Venezuela. For organizations planning any type of aid, this insight is extremely important, as it shows the strong need for aid required in Venezuela for internally displaced people.
From those who responded that they are planning to move again, 57% of males and about 39% of females plan to look for another state within Venezuela to relocate. In contrast, 32% of females plan to eventually be able to move back to their state of origin, while only 18% of males responded the same. Finally, 29% of females and 25% of males are planning to migrate outside Venezuela.
Displacement is part of the protection cluster in the humanitarian response architecture. Collecting, interpreting and making real-time data on internally displaced populations’s needs in Venezuela accessible is paramount information to humanitarian actors responding to displacement and protection of vulnerable populations on the move. It provides the needed insights for local and international aid organizations in the humanitarian space to plan and deliver basic services, food and shelter to those who are most in need.
Premise will continue to collect data in Venezuela and collaborate with our partners to analyze and identify further insights to contribute to evidence-based decision making in Venezuela’s efforts to deliver humanitarian assistance.
If you would like to learn more about how Premise can help you gather the data you need, feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Premise was selected as a grant recipient to help provide innovative solutions to the humanitarian crisis that has been compounded by COVID-19 in Venezuela, as part of the JuntosEsMejor Challenge funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)
We are currently collaborating with international experts on information management in the humanitarian space, as well as Code for Venezuela, a technology non-profit formed by the Venezuelan diaspora focused on solving Venezuela’s most pressing needs. Our goal is to collect up-to-date data for international and national non-governmental organizations that would help them make more informed decisions and better basic services to Venezuelans. We will continue to share more insights and stories about our work on this project.
¹For this survey 40% of respondents are female and 60% male. Moreover, our respondents were regionally distributed across a variety of Venezuelan states: Amazonas( 4%), Anzoategui (10%), Apure, (11%), Aragua (13%),Bolivar (6%), Distrito Capital (13%), Lara (4%), Miranda (9%), Managas (1%) and other states (30%).