A political and socio-economic crisis in Venezuela has led to soaring inflation and food and medicine shortages, leading to a humanitarian crisis in which about 7 million people are in need of critical humanitarian assistance. In addition to an increasingly dire situation within the country, the complex situation has triggered a significant outflow of vulnerable people into neighbouring countries and beyond. Displacement from Venezuela is among the highest in the world – second only to Syria.
While virtually no country in the Latin America and Caribbean region has been left untouched by the migration crisis, Colombia and Peru are the two countries in the region that are most affected by the migration out of Venezuela, hosting about 1.8 million and nearly 900,000 Venezuelan migrants and refugees, respectively.
The situation for Venezuelan children crossing the border into Colombia is urgent. Many children crossing the border are unaccompanied, putting them at risk of recruitment by armed groups or exploitation by traffickers. When children arrive in Colombia, they are malnourished and have little access to clean drinking water. And hospitals are overcrowded and lack sufficient resources to deal with the influx. COVID-19 is now having a devastating impact on an already fragile situation.
Our teams in Colombia are working with Venezuelan migrants, Colombian returnees, host communities, and indigenous populations. We have constructed Child Friendly Spaces so children can have a safe space to play, recover and be children again. We have distributed water filters, mosquito nets and hygiene kits for families who arrived in Colombia without any possessions.
We have established temporary learning centres in informal settlements and schools and have conducted mobile learning activities to ensure children do not miss out on their learning. We also train teachers to help them provide emotional support for children after their long journeys.
We continue to provide crucial clinical and mental health services to vulnerable people in our sexual and reproductive health unit in La Guajira.
In Peru, our teams have adapted to the COVID-19 context to virtually provide cash transfers for families in need. We keep in contact with families to make sure they stay informed about COVID-19 as well as where they can seek support or report violence and abuse. Find out more about our work in Latin America and the Caribbean here.
Brayan, 12, is living in the dusty border town of Maico, Colombia after leaving Venezuela with his parents and five siblings. Maicao is a hotbed of child trafficking, and is now home to thousands of Venezuelan migrants who have been driven out of their country by hunger, extreme poverty and violence.
Brayan's father had a very successful construction business in Venezuela, but lost everything when the economy crashed. After crossing the border into Colombia, Brayan's family was robbed and forced to sleep on the streets for two months. Brayan found the transition to life in Colombia extremely difficult, and was often depressed and argumentative.
Brayan is now going to Save the Children's Child Friendly Space where he plays and has emotional support.
"Brayan has changed since attending the Child Friendly Space. He's become gentler and calmer. He says he needs to be there. The space has changed him 100%."