The United States has pledged $18.5 million USD to support more than half a million Venezuelans who have been displaced in Colombia due to the ongoing economic and social crisis in their home country, according to the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá.
Though the funds are subject to congressional approval in Washington, the embassy stated that the country, along with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will support the Colombian government on health care and school food programs in the locations most affected by the influx of Venezuelans.
This money will also support a registration system that was launched last month to help officials in Colombia better keep track of assistance requests from Venezuelans in the country, “especially children, young people, and other vulnerable groups that could be recruited by criminal organizations and exploited,” said the embassy in a statement.
This investment in formalizing processes will also include collecting and analyzing data in both border locations and internal destination cities for Venezuelans entering the country. This is “crucial to understand trends and report on progress in measures aimed at helping Venezuelans and the Colombian communities that host them,” said the embassy.
These funds come in addition to the $21 million USD in humanitarian aid that the embassy says has been provided by the United States to Venezuelans fleeing their homes since 2017.
As their country continues to suffer from food shortages, runaway inflation, unemployment, and lack of health services, an estimated 35,000 Venezuelans are now crossing the border each day, mostly through the Colombian border city of Cúcuta, in search of work, medical attention, and general stability.
While many of those crossing the border do return back to Venezuela, Colombian authorities said that here were more than 550,000 Venezuelas living in the country as of December 2017, and this number has only grown as conditions have further deteriorated in 2018.
“Many Colombians have reacted with sympathy and solidarity, and some business leaders stress that immigration has long-term benefits,” stated the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based NGO, in a March report. “But the country is ill-prepared for the potential short- to medium-term disruption … Colombia has little experience of mass immigration.”
While repeatedly expressing solidarity with Venezuelans and calling for “the return of democracy” across the border, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has said that the country needs help from the international community to deal with the migration situation.
“The humanitarian crisis has caused thousands of Venezuelans to seek food, medicine and work on this side of the border that they do not find in their country,” said Santos in a public address in February. “Thanks to the offers of financial and other aid from the international community, we are fully prepared to receive them. We need this [aid], because unfortunately this problem gets worse day by day.”
(Photo credit: Efecto Eco)