Mercy Corps Expands Colombia Border Response to Venezuela Crisis

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Global organization will provide emergency cash to Venezuelans and Colombians in La Guajira and Cesar

May 2018. Ariadna, 3, of Maracaibo, Venezuela, crosses the border into Colombia with her mother. Credit: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps

The global organization Mercy Corps is expanding its operations near Colombia’s border with Venezuela to meet the urgent needs of Venezuelan migrants and refugees, returning Colombians and Colombians affected by Venezuelan migration. According to Colombian authorities, more than 1 million people have fled Venezuela for Colombia since 2016, including 250,000 returning Colombians and more than 800,000 Venezuelans.

Mercy Corps will provide emergency cash via prepaid debit cards to help approximately 7,000 people meet their shelter, water, sanitation and health needs in 10 municipalities in Cesar and La Guajira departments, including the cities of Riohacha, Maicao and Valledupar.

“Many Venezuelans arriving in Colombia are going from eating bread with coffee once every two days when they arrive to eating a plate of beans and rice once a day,” says Provash Budden, Americas Regional Director for Mercy Corps. “That’s still not enough. And they also have to buy water to drink, which is critical in a hot and humid climate like in Cesar and La Guajira. So even though they are hungry they are using what little money they do have on water and shelter, not food.”

Many have seen no improvement in diet at all. In a May assessment, one out of every three Venezuelans told Mercy Corps their diet hadn’t changed in the two weeks after arriving in Colombia, and 12 percent reported that their diet had worsened. Medical professionals also reported that while some people are gaining back weight they had lost in Venezuela, they’re eating low-nutrition diets, leading to continued malnutrition. According to the UN, of the 2.3 million people who left Venezuela, lack of food was cited as the primary reason for leaving.

Mercy Corps has already assisted more than 4,700 Venezuelans in Colombia with emergency cash and medicine. Beyond the border, the organization is assisting Venezuelans in Putumayo, Cauca and Antioquia, Colombia, where Mercy Corps already works to help vulnerable Colombians displaced by conflict meet their urgent needs.

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Lynn Hector
Mercy Corps
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