Delivering assistance for women: doctor and interpreter

Dr. Palacios on mission. Photo: OCHA.

Venezuela | 2023 | CBPF

Venezuela, Delta Amacuro. Soila Palacios is a medical doctor, a native Warao from Delta Amacuro in the far east of the country, and a language interpreter. This makes her a critical member of the team at Venezuelan NGO El Paragüero, where she regularly joins the team to translate between the Warao indigenous language and Spanish.

Delta Amacuro was one of three states in 2023 to benefit from the Venezuela Humanitarian Fund’s focus on funding for indigenous communities. Soila knows this area, and these people, well. Some villages take four hours to reach by boat.  Soila explains that many people feel comfortable telling her things in Warao that they wouldn’t share in Spanish, or with someone who only spoke Spanish.

Delta Amacuro is a poor region, where 66 per cent of people live in extreme poverty. The economic collapse in Venezuela has resulted in loss of livelihoods, food insecurity, and a lack of basic services. Many of the most vulnerable people are forced to reduce meals or engage in other negative coping activities for survival.

Dr. Palacios supports a project for women funded by the Venezuela Humanitarian Fund and implemented by El Paragüero together with HIAS. The project aims to reach 70 per cent of the women here with protection, livelihoods, and health support.

The protection work includes legal counselling to obtain birth registration; improving systems to prevent trafficking and GBV, and strengthening child protection. Food security interventions include training on fishing, handicrafts, and local food processing: a significant driver of food insecurity is the loss of local fishing knowledge, and other ‘traditional’ activities. Health assistance focuses on training staff, including midwives, and strengthening community-based health surveillance, so that people look out for each other and can refer them to the clinic when needed.

Soila sees her role as more than work. “As a translator, I help empower and support indigenous people here, especially the most vulnerable,” she explains. For example, during training on fishing or food processing, Dr. Palacios is on hand to translate and make sure women’s questions are raised – and answered clearly. Her presence makes the women more comfortable to ask questions, and she helps them get the answers they’re looking for.

With her linguistic expertise and deep understanding of the communities, Dr. Palacios helps ensure the respectful integration of diverse cultures, the full participation of indigenous people in all phases of the project, and successful outcomes for women.

More information on the VHF:

Pooled Funds Data Hub.