The number of people who have left Venezuela to escape the country’s ongoing political and economic crisis, has reached some four million, the United Nations announced on June 7.
In a joint statement, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), described the scale of the exodus as “staggering”, with the number of displaced people jumping by a million over a seven-month period, from November 2018.
“These alarming figures highlight the urgent need to support host communities in the receiving countries”, said Eduardo Stein, joint UNHCR-IOM Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants. “Latin American and Caribbean countries are doing their part to respond to this unprecedented crisis, but they cannot be expected to continue doing it without international help.”
Most of the Venezuelans who have fled are being hosted in Latin America: more than half are in Colombia and Peru, followed by Chile, Ecuador, Argentina and Brazil.
For many of those who have remained in Venezuela, the situation is dire, and around a third of children in the country need help accessing basic nutrition, health and education services, the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said on Friday.
The UN agency announced that it has ramped up aid since the beginning of the year, in the form of 55 tons of health supplies distributed to 25 hospitals in the most affected states of Caracas, Miranda, Zulia, Bolivar and Táchira. They include midwifery kits, antibiotics and malaria treatment.
“As the country grapples with the impact of a devastating economic and political crisis, we will continue to provide its most vulnerable children, wherever they are, with the humanitarian support they need”, said Paloma Escudero, UNICEF Director of Communication. “Children’s needs must always remain above politics.”
On her return from a recent visit, Ms. Escudero said that people in Venezuela had told her the health situation was “grim”, adding that, because of a shortage of medicine, and an exodus of many doctors and nurses, medical centres are running at minimum capacity.
Many mobile health units and ambulances are grounded due to a lack of spare parts, she said, and, with worsening fuel shortages, some pregnant women cannot even make it to health centres. “For a country that made remarkable progress for decades on the quality of its health care, this is quite dramatic.”
The UN agencies operating in Venezuela have urged donors to increase funding, so that they can scale up their response to the crisis. IOM said that the humanitarian Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan launched last December is only 21 percent funded. UNICEF said that flexible funding is needed to allow the agency to reach children in need with quality support.