A new plan to cover the urgent needs of millions of Venezuelan refugees and migrants, coordinated by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), was launched in Geneva on Friday.
The plan, the first of its kind in the Americas, is a strategy to deal with an estimate three million people, the largest exodus from a single country in the region, in recent years. The vast majority of them have sought refuge in Latin American and Caribbean countries. The numbers leaving Venezuela have increased dramatically from 2017, and now, an average of 5,500 are crossing the border every day.
In the foreword to the plan, Eduardo Stein, UN Joint Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants, describes the challenges faced by Venezuelans he has met during his visits to the region, saying that they spoke of “hunger, lack of access to medical care, insecurity, threats, fear. They are families, women alone, children, young boys and girls, all in conditions of extreme vulnerability. All of them saw no other option than to leave their country – sometimes walking for days – seeking to live in dignity and to build a future.”
The launch of the plan was also an appeal for funding, focusing on four key areas: direct emergency assistance, protection, socio-economic and cultural integration; and strengthening capacities in the receiving countries. $738 million is needed in 2019, targeting 2.7 million people spread across 16 countries.
The UN agencies praised the generosity shown towards the refugees and migrants by regional host countries, described by Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as “humbling,” adding that the appeal underscores the urgency of this complex and fast-evolving situation and the need to support the host communities.” The infrastructure of these countries, and their ability to deal with the influx of refugees and migrants, are being stretched beyond capacity.