An estimated 6.5 million Venezuelans – over 20% of the population- will have fled by the end of 2020 with the Venezuelan economy in turmoil resulting in chronic unemployment and hyper-inflation.
In addition, the country has been plagued by political and social instability. And with the onset of Covid-19, and the further economic impacts this will bring, this humanitarian crisis is expected to grow increasingly worse.
Despite this being the largest refugee crisis in recent Americas history, countries like Ecuador, Perú and Chile imposed entry visas on Venezuelans in 2019 to limit the influx of refugees to their countries. As a result a large portion of the migrant population have fled to neighbouring Colombia and are mainly living in overcrowded, informal settlements in the outskirts of the Colombian capital city, Bogotá, and in Norte de Santander Department.
Adding to the crisis is the fact that the Americas have now become the epicentre of the global Covid-19 pandemic. To date, Colombia has recorded over 21,500 cases and over 750 deaths. With the refugees living in crowded settlements, where social distancing is almost impossible, there are fears the virus will spread, exacerbating the already fragile living conditions.
With 99% of the local population engaged in the informal economy, most people are living in precarious conditions, often sleeping on the streets with little or no access to basic services. City administrators are struggling to cope with this huge increase in population.
Since October 2019, GOAL has been working with the Italian aid agency, Fundazione Terre Des Hommes Italia Onlus (TDH), providing humanitarian aid in the cities of Tibú, Cucutá and Puerto Santander, in the Department of Norte de Santander, Colombia. 13,500 refugees have been supported with cash assistance and basic supplies, funded by Irish Aid.
Three stories of change
Here are three stories of hope…. of how the lives of three Venezuelan refugees in Colombia improved thanks to support from GOAL, TDH and Irish Aid
Ines (54) and her husband (62) fled Venezuela four years ago. They had no work, were sick, and had no access to medicines. Since their arrival in Colombia, they have tried to create work for themselves informally, but with little money and resources they have been unsuccessful.
However Ines recently started a small business baking and selling cakes with support from GOAL – TDH project which supplied her with cash to invest in her business, allowing her to buy supplies, sell goods and improve her income. This has helped Ines and her husband buy basic food and to survive.
Ines says: “I am very grateful. With this cash assistance I have been able to undertake more work as I can buy more supplies and grow my business. I am very grateful to them [GOAL, TDH and Irish Aid]. God continues to bless and help each one of them.”
Poelly (28), her husband and three children fled Venezuela because they no longer had access to food or medicines. They wanted a better life for their family. But since their arrival in Colombia they have only just been able to get by day-today. Poelly’s husband is the only income earner in the family, but does not have a stable job.
However, thanks to the GOAL-TDH project, Peolly now has cash assistance which means she can buy uniforms and books and send two of her children to school. She has also been able to pay debts and provide a balanced and nutritious diet for her family.
Poelly says: “I am very grateful for the help that we have had from GOAL and TDH. It is something we did not expect and it has helped me buy my children’s uniforms and school supplies, pay some debts and supply food for my family.”
Karina (34), lives alone and came from Venezuela a year and a half ago after she lost her job and was unable to meet her basic needs. When she arrived in Colombia, Karina worked for a family for four months but became ill with tuberculosis and had to stop. She was unemployed for several months and was unable to buy medicines needed to treat her TB, and to buy special food prescribed for her. Thanks to the GOAL-TDH Project, Karina has been able to continue her TB treatment and is starting to recover from the disease.