How do Venezuelan children who have taken refuge in Brazil live? – 05/13/2022

Venezuela’s economic and social crisis has made Boa Vista the main gateway for immigrants to the country in search of opportunities. Between 2015 and 2017, the number of Venezuelans in Brazil increased by more than 900%, making the Latin American country fifth in terms of the total number of refugees. With an estimated population of just over 430,000, the capital of Roraima has increased its pressure on schools, hospitals, housing and various social support services.

The city’s public maternity hospital has doubled the number of deliveries in a span of twelve months, and the city has had to rely on the help of international agencies to mitigate the impact of the rapid growth of basic needs of this population. Hosted in temporary shelters organized by the city in partnership with the Armed Forces and the UNHCR (UN refugee agency), they receive legal assistance and assistance in obtaining civil rights in Brazil. In addition to issuing a CPF, they can apply for a permanent visa and even enroll in programs like Bolsa Família.

In the case of children, the situation is always more subtle, as a set of vulnerabilities is added to the experience of these younger citizens. Estimates indicate that there are 1,500 Venezuelans homeless in the capital, about one-third of whom are under 18 years of age. Born in the context of extreme difficulties, they rely on the services provided in Brazil for development in the critical years of their formation.

Known as the capital of early childhood, Boa Vista Familia has created multiple reference programs for the care of pregnant women and young children with an emphasis on Cui Acolahe (FQA). Launched in 2013, it is a public policy to integrate City Hall services to maintain family supervision from pregnancy to six years. Already amalgamated when the immigration crisis erupted in 2017, the program was forced to adapt the service to accept foreigners, many of whom arrived in Brazil at an advanced stage of pregnancy.

A Venezuelan facilitator was hired to intensify the conversation with the new family, and, in support of UNICEF and social organizations that were already active in the city, a special group of Venezuelans was formed at FQA. Time has shown that integration into society was also an urgent need, and Xenophobia strongly concluded that it would be best to establish mixed groups. This decision even helped new families adapt to the language, culture and life of the city.

Andrea Neres, head of the municipal secretariat for the special project, which currently coordinates the municipality’s program, says several adaptations were needed to meet the needs of the new population. And that, today, 22% of the 1560 families registered in Familia Cui Acolahe are of Venezuelan descent. As of June 2021, more than 22,000 pregnancies have already been observed in the municipality, of which only 3,000 are Venezuelan mothers.

“We understand that this is not a welfare initiative, it is an integral program that works and has a very strong partnership with other departments like health, education, work and communication. Everyone participates in the program in one way or another. Adolescents were cared for. Then there was the need for mothers to look at other groups and we expanded, “he explained.

The program has evolved and new challenges have emerged with the arrival of Venezuelan children. “At the beginning of the service, it was difficult to enter the shelter and identify the pregnant women who needed support because they were in a large place with more than six thousand people. [Centro de Referência de Assistência Social]It’s a way to extend service to the general public, “adds Andrea.

Today the city has seven established shelters, two of which target indigenous peoples. Homes were inspected from the federal government’s “Happy Child”, a method also applied with adaptation, which allows for more structured care, taking care of many Venezuelan families in the city. Immigration challenges remain for those seeking a source of income, decent employment and full access to their rights, but gradually the acceptance of the Boa Vista experience reminds us of the power of integrated management and partnership. What was important in times of crisis served as an inspiration for policy throughout the ages.

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