“Venezuelan refugees are very vulnerable, emotionally and psychologically”

Since 2013, Venezuela has been facing a severe economic, political, and social crisis. Access to health care, sanitation facilities, and food has decreased significantly, and humanitarian needs are great. At least 3.4 million Venezuelans have fled worldwide, including 2.7 million to Latin American and Caribbean countries. Among them, more than one million people now live in Colombia.

Gregory Le Blanc, Humanity & Inclusion’s director in Colombia, explains the situation facing Venezuelan refugees in Colombia and shares details about our emergency response.

Gregory Le Blanc stands in a field in Colombia wearing an old HI vest (old brand alert!).

"The serious political and economic crisis in Venezuela makes life a little harder every day while more and more people move to neighboring countries. An estimated 3.4 million Venezuelans have fled around the world, including more than 2 million to Colombia. The Colombian authorities are overwhelmed by this influx of people and the needs to assist them. Women, children, older people and people with disabilities are worst affected.

Struggling to access basic services

The fact that some no longer have ID documents or residency permits, and are unaware how to normalize their situation in the country or what their rights are, makes it more difficult for them to access basic services such as healthcare and drinking water. In large cities and at major gathering points near borders, Venezuelans receive healthcare, and the most vulnerable have access to welfare services and the like. It is less easy to access psychological support, but it is just as important.

Families uprooted

In fact, people fleeing Venezuela are very vulnerable, socially and emotionally. They have been uprooted and live in precarious conditions, and this has a serious impact on their mental health. They feel frustration, despair, anxiety and may experience depression.

Humanity & Inclusion is there

Humanity & Inclusion provides them with psychological support in Medellin and La Guajira—on the northern border—and is preparing to intervene in Bogota and Barranquilla. HI also provides support to people who need help resolving legal issues (ID documents, formalizing their situation, etc.) in Medellin, in conjunction with the local council, the university, etc., and with HI’s lawyers. Our team of rehabilitation professionals also help train health service providers, in addition to providing care directly and/or through specialized centers. We also provide mobility devices—wheelchairs, crutches, and walkers—to those who need them.

Due to the scale of the needs and the length of the humanitarian crisis, we also plan to strengthen the socio-economic inclusion of Venezuelans in Colombia from 2020, based on our extensive experience in this sector.”