Assisting Venezuelans on the move

A pregnant woman from Barquisimeto, Venezuela, currently lives in Cucuta, Colombia, where she has rented a room for herself, her husband and their two children. She works informally with her husband on the Simón Bolívar bridge selling snacks and sweets, having left Venezuela due to health problems and difficulties in accessing food.

The family’s journey from Barquisimeto to Colombia was long and difficult, travelling by bus on deteriorated and dangerous roads. As they did not have travel documents, they couldn’t cross the international bridge at the border and were forced to use unofficial trails, where they were victims of a robbery.

Now, her main concern is to earn enough money to feed the family and pay the rent. The woman and her husband are always fearful of being chased by the police who often confiscate their merchandise. The little money they have left over is sent to family members in Venezuela to cover their basic needs.

This story showcases some of the difficulties faced by Venezuelan migrants who have left the country in recent years. With many struggling to cover their immediate needs and to access food, medicine, and basic services in the country, the number of displaced people continues to rise. It is estimated that  4 million people have left their homes, mainly to Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

To support the Venezuelans on the move in these three bordering countries, the Red Cross is implementing a regional humanitarian assistance project. The ongoing project also addresses people who intend to stay in certain host communities, with activities focussed on health and protection, as well as Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and shelter.

Mobile Health Unit in host community Guainia, Colombia © 2019 European Union

Given the challenges faced in accessing medical care back home, many of those migrating have immediate healthcare needs, including the treatment of chronic conditions. The long journeys also take a physical tole, especially on older people and small children. Often, migrants experience difficulties in seeing a doctor, or getting the assistance they need because of their administrative status.

Permanent healthcare centres have thus been established at Colombia’s border crossing points with Venezuela and Ecuador to provide basic medical care and psychosocial support, as well as to implement health promotion and disease prevention activities. Red Cross staff are also conducting pre-natal consultations and providing health and nutritional assistance to children.  Along the migratory route between Cucuta in Colombia and Lima in Peru, mobile health facilities deliver first aid, hygiene kits and food packages. They also provide care in host communities where Venezuelans tend to stay.

Worrying about family members that have been left behind can be very distressing and have significant impact on the wellbeing of migrants. To help facilitate contact with family back in Venezuela, the Red Cross offers internet services and the possibility to make phone calls. People also receive orientation and information on their rights in their host country, relevant addresses or institution, available Red Cross services, and the distance to their next destination if they are planning to move on.

Doctor Hasbleidy of the Colombian Red Cross shares his experience working on the programme: “I could feel the difficult situation of those people who have had to leave their country to try and build a future in other places, where they often encounter xenophobia. We not only provide various services to the people, but we also try to give them relief and a positive outlook as they receive kind, dignified and humanitarian treatment by the staff of the Colombian Red Cross.”

Since 2018, more than 42,000 people have had access to these health services in Colombia. An additional 25,000 people have used communication devices, such as internet or phone, to contact family members or to receive orientation during their travels.

Funded by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO), this project is implemented by the Red Cross Societies of Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, with support from the German Red Cross and the Spanish Red Cross.

Basic information

Activity name

Assistance for people affected by the Venezuelan crisis

Country

Colombia, Peru and Ecuador

Duration

2018 - 2019

Partners

German Red Cross, Colombian Red Cross, Peruvian Red Cross, Ecuadorian Red Cross, Spanish Red Cross, European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO)