- General

COVID-19 Worsens Venezuela Displacement Crisis

GENEVA – U.N. refugee and migration agencies are appealing for international support for 5.6 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants who have fled persecution and economic hardship and taken refuge in countries in the region.

The Venezuelan refugee and migrant displacement crisis is one of the largest the world has ever seen, second only to Syria. U.N. officials say it has not received the visibility it deserves.

Michael Grant is assistant deputy minister for the Americas, Global Affairs Canada.

Grant said this lack of visibility is depriving the Venezuelans and host countries of the humanitarian assistance needed for them to thrive. He said this is causing more suffering for millions of people who already have endured so much distress.

“The lives of nearly six million people have been upended, forced to leave their homes with little or no possessions in search of safety, security and dignity. Walking in some instances thousands of kilometers to find refuge,” he said.

At the end of their journey, he said countries in South and Central America and the Caribbean have offered the Venezuelans shelter, health care, education, and security, but, he said this generosity is unsustainable without more international support.

Grant said the Venezuelan crisis is amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit the Latin American and Caribbean region particularly hard. He said the pandemic has had a particularly severe impact on women, children, and vulnerable groups.

“Over half do not have enough to eat. Eighty to 90 percent have lost their source of income. One in four children is separated from their families during the journey and women and girls experience particular challenges such as gender-based violence and lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services,” he said.

U.N. agencies report millions of impoverished Venezuelans are in dire straits and dependent upon humanitarian assistance for survival.

Canada, in collaboration with the U.N. refugee agency and International Organization for Migration, is hosting an International Donors’ Conference on behalf of Venezuelan refugees and migrants on June 17.

The agencies say $1.44 billion is needed to provide lifesaving aid to the 5.6 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants this year. They note half the year is gone and only five percent of this amount has been funded. They are appealing to governments to use this week’s pledging conference to fill this gap.

Source: Voice of America