GENEVA - The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) says the mass migration of Venezuelans throughout South America in search of asylum and economic relief is plunging the entire region into crisis.
The WFP says Colombia, in particular, is facing an unprecedented emergency because thousands of desperate Venezuelans arrive there daily to escape political and economic turmoil. It says Colombia is hosting nearly 1 million of the roughly 2.3 million Venezuelans who have fled their country.
Colombia has emerged relatively recently from its decades-long war with FARC guerrillas. Dealing with its own political, social and economic needs after such a long period of conflict is difficult.
WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel acknowledges the burden the large influx of Venezuelans is placing upon Colombia. He said the government and citizens are doing all they can to step up to the challenge.
“The country has made progress in its peace process and ending hunger; however, as the migration crisis grows in proportion, it jeopardizes recent gains. The crisis is affecting host families and communities receiving large numbers of migrants, particularly indigenous communities, which welcome new arrivals but face very difficult living conditions,” Verhoosel said.
Many Venezuelans transit through Colombia and move on to Ecuador, Peru and other South American countries. Aid agencies say a lack of food, medicine and other basic goods, loss of livelihoods and growing political repressions in Venezuela are creating one of the largest mass exoduses in Latin American history.
Verhoosel said the WFP is providing food rations to the most vulnerable migrants in Colombia and Ecuador, especially women, children and others living in temporary shelters and on the street. He said WFP urgently needs $22 million to scale up its aid operation.