United Nations, Apr 11 : Over a month after two competing resolutions on Venezuela failed to pass, the UN Security Council met to discuss the “very real humanitarian problem” facing the country, where close to seven million people are in dire need of aid, and some 5,000 people continue to flee across borders every day. Tensions in the country escalated in January this year, when Juan Guaidó, head of the country’s National Assembly, challenged the legitimacy of the sitting President, Nicolás Maduro, in power since 2013 and sworn in again for a second term this past January, following an election process disputed by many in opposition.
This was the fourth meeting of the Council on Venezuela, since the first one took place on 26 January. With both Russian and United States draft resolutions failing to pass in February, US Vice-President Mike Pence briefed the Council on Wednesday, calling on the UN to recognise interim leader Guaidó as the legitimate President, revoke the credentials of Venezuela’s current Permanent Representative and seat Mr Guaidó’s nominee in his place “without delay”. But Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the US was looking to install its own “pawn”, describing the US effort as a “lawless, thuggish violation of international law”.
“There is a very real humanitarian problem in Venezuela,” said Mark Lowcock, the UN humanitarian chief. “We estimate that 7 million people in Venezuela need humanitarian assistance. That is some 25 per cent of the population,” he added, noting that the situation further deteriorated recently given the “recurrent widespread power outages”, which have hampered the capacity to deliver many services, including water and sewage systems, as well as medical care.
“The context is a severe and continuing economic contraction, with associated dramatic increases in inflation, on a scale seen in few if any other countries around the world in recent years,” Mr Lowcock explained, adding that “The scale of need is significant and growing.” The United Nations has been expanding its humanitarian operations, releasing US$9 million from its emergency response fund, the CERF, and increasing the number of staff in the country from 210 to 400. “Our efforts are in line with the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence,” Mr Lowcock said. (UNI)