Press Release

As crisis facing women in Venezuela deepens, UNFPA appeals for urgent funding to save lives and protect their rights

31 March 2021

More and more women and girls are facing the deadly consequences of the crisis that grips Venezuela. The health system is collapsing and international funding for sexual and reproductive health services is urgently needed.

“From the streets of Caracas to the most remote communities, many women and girls across Venezuela need urgent support,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem. “UNFPA is calling for critical funding to provide life-saving sexual and reproductive health and protection services and to ensure that survivors of rape and other forms of violence get the support and treatment they so desperately need.”

The challenges facing women and adolescent girls in Venezuela include:

  • Rising rates of adolescent pregnancy (95 per 1,000 women aged 15-19) 
  • Rising rates of maternal mortality (98.87 deaths per 100,000 live births) 
  • Lack of access to free contraceptives (around 80% shortage of supplies)
  • Rapidly spreading sexually transmitted infections, including congenital syphilis
  • Rising gender-based violence, including rape and sexual slavery

With an estimated 70% dropout rate of medical and nursing staff in the Venezuela health system, the loss of operational capacity threatens sexual and reproductive health services.  This is compounded by COVID-19, which also impacts access to these services, especially public access to contraception. 

Another major ongoing concern is  gender-based violence. Indigenous and displaced women and girls are increasingly suffering violence in border communities and rural areas, including rape and sexual abuse. Criminal groups are forcing women into sexual slavery, and transactional sex for survival. 

Between 2018 and 2020, an estimated 7 million people required humanitarian assistance in Venezuela. By the end of 2020, UNFPA had reached more than 460,000 vulnerable women with lifesaving assistance. 

In 2021, UNFPA requires $26.7 million to save the lives and protect the rights of one million women, adolescents, and girls in the most vulnerable communities in Venezuela. The funds will be used for life-saving sexual and reproductive services and a multi-sectoral response to gender-based violence, including psychosocial support and post-rape treatment for survivors.

Those in need include returnees and people moving across borders, women and girls in temporary shelters based on the border, indigenous people and people with disabilities, women deprived of liberty, and the most affected people in communities. 

UNFPA coordinates the international response to gender-based violence, working closely with civil society organizations and other international partners to prevent and respond to violence and collect critical data. UNFPA also works with partners to ensure the continuity of sexual and reproductive health services, including in border areas and impoverished communities in urban areas. However, the lack of financing jeopardizes the continuity of these lifesaving health services and the protection of the most vulnerable.

The 2020 Venezuela humanitarian response plan was one of the world’s lowest funded. Ensuring a response commensurate with the scale of needs will only be possible with urgent additional funding. UNFPA, in partnership with country donors and other allies, remains committed to saving the lives and protecting the rights of Venezuelan women and adolescents most affected by the deepening crisis.

UNFPA humanitarian operations in Venezuela since 2018:

  • Reached over 36,000 in-transit women and adolescents with dignity kits (basic feminine hygiene products) and lifesaving information.
  • Reached over 270,000 women and adolescents with strengthened sexual and reproductive health services.
  • Trained over 9,000 medical personnel on sexual and reproductive health and COVID-19 prevention.
  • Trained over 1,000 personnel from public institutions and community organizations on responding to gender-based violence.
  • Supported 16 hospitals and 39 primary health with medical supplies.
  • Distributed over 1.1 million contraceptives.
  • Improved 3 medical centers serving pregnant women.
  • Dispensed 110,000 tests for HIV and syphilis.
  • Supported 4 hospitals near the border providing services for the clinical management of rape.
  • Created 8 safe spaces in border communities.
  • Established 13 service centers in remote locations providing case management, legal assistance, and psychological support to survivors of gender-based violence. 

About the United Nations Population Fund 

UNFPA is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency. It is formally named the United Nations Population Fund. UNFPA's mission is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled. UNFPA calls for the realization of reproductive rights for all and supports access to a wide range of sexual and reproductive health services, including voluntary family planning, quality maternal health care and comprehensive sexuality education.


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