Continuing Venezuelan exodus and COVID-19 underscore the need for global solidarity for the most vulnerable |
Since 2015, some 5.6 million Venezuelans have left the country to escape violence, insecurity and threats, as well as a long-standing economic crisis that has resulted in a lack of food, medicine and healthcare. essential services, according to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR.
“I don’t even have the words to describe how cold it is”
Wendy fled Venezuela and took refuge in Chile. She and her family cannot afford housing.
– UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency (@Refugees) June 10, 2021
Some 2.5 million people have moved to the Americas, where most were self-sufficient until the pandemic struck, leading to job losses, evictions and an increase in gender-based violence.
“The facts for Venezuelan refugees and migrants are striking: more than half do not have enough to eat, 80 to 90% have lost their source of income, one in four children are separated from their families during the trip, and many women and girls face unique challenges, such as gender-based violence and lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services, ”said Michael Grant, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Americas at Global Affairs Canada via Zoom.
Almost $ 1.5 billion needed
June 17 donors’ conference – co-hosted by UNHCR and the United Nations Migration Agency IMO – comes as aid workers warn that the onset of winter in Latin America has worsened the plight of desperate Venezuelans. The total demand is $ 1.44 billion.
It is estimated that one in four Venezuelan children have been separated from one or both parents, while one in three goes to bed hungry. Almost two-thirds were unable to continue their education during the pandemic, UNHCR said.
Data sets compiled over the past year also indicate that women have become the target of an alarming increase in domestic violence, sexual harassment and abuse, negative coping mechanisms including survival sex. , as well as human trafficking.
Colombia recorded a 41.5% increase in cases of sexual and gender-based violence against Venezuelan women and girls during the pandemic compared to the same period in 2019, with 2,538 cases of gender-based violence reported against women and girls. Venezuelan girls in September. 2020.
There has also been an almost 70% increase in murders of Venezuelan women during the pandemic – from 31 cases in 2019 to 52 between March and November 2020 – UNHCR said, citing the National Institute of Forensic Medicine and Science. forensic.
2,000 per day still crossing
“People are still crossing, these are estimates, because the borders are closed and people use irregular crossing points; but in recent weeks we have been waiting for 2,000 Venezuelans a day entering Colombia, ”said Marie-Hélène Verney, UNHCR’s head of operations for the situation in Venezuela.
“We see a lot – and I mean a lot – of women with single children going out right now. So what? Then they come in and because they have entered irregularly it can be very difficult if not impossible for them. to obtain regular status.
She added: “What has been amazing since the start of COVID in an area where we had a large majority of refugees and migrants – say 80, 85% were self-reliant – not necessarily living very well, but at least self-sufficient – COVID has had absolutely the opposite effect, that now we are looking at a population that is truly dependent on humanitarian aid. “
© UNICEF / Santiago Arcos
According to UNHCR, older people – often the main breadwinner – face additional hardships as nearly half have lost their jobs. Before the pandemic, one in four skipped meals. Since COVID-19[female[feminine, more than four in ten people had to reduce their consumption.
One of the objectives of the pledging conference will be to highlight the significant efforts made by host Latin American countries to respond to the unprecedented exodus from Venezuela, which remains the second largest displacement crisis in the world. after Syria.
Concerns for the region are growing amid forecasts from institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, of an eight percent economic contraction in South America over the next two years, the worst economic recession in 120 years.
Highlighting the threat posed by COVID-19 and the lack of protection for Venezuelan migrants and refugees, UNHCR noted that nearly two million of them had settled in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, in Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay – some of the most coronavirus infections and deaths matter globally.
“Most Venezuelans have been included in national health responses, but with hospitals operating at full capacity, access to treatment for other illnesses, including those associated with the winter season, has grown increasingly. difficult, “the UN agency said in a statement.
“What we are trying to help governments achieve as well is how to prevent Venezuelan refugees and migrants from taking irregular paths and falling into the hands of people who exploit them in order to facilitate their crossings to countries. neighbors, “said Eduardo Stein, UNHCR spouse. -IOM Special Representative for Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants.
“As COVID-19 continues to devastate the region, the onset of winter threatens to expose Venezuelans to untold hardship. Desperation is already worsening and negative coping mechanisms are on the rise, ”said Juan Carlos Murillo, representative of the Regional Office for Southern Latin America. “Despite the laudable efforts of host countries to reduce suffering, more support is needed to meet the growing needs.