Europana – a humanitarian response to the Venezuela migration crisis  (Refugees, Humanitarian Aid)

October 2019

Melanie Höchner, NADEL Student │ Colombia, Bogota, Caritas Switzerland. mhoechner@caritas.ch  

Venezuelan migrants at the central bus station, Bogota, Colombia. @ Luca Zanetti, 2019.

Photo: Venezuelan migrants at the central bus station, Bogota, Colombia. @ Luca Zanetti, 2019

As of the beginning of July 2019, more than 4 million Venezuelans have left their country according to the Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Platform, a number that has risen from 650,000 since the end of 2015 (UNHCR). People are fleeing food shortages, hunger, insecurity and violence, lack of medical care and electricity, the collapse of public services and a spiralling hyperinflation that is making it near impossible to make ends meet and cover basic needs. The population that is migrating includes many families with young children, single mothers and adolescents. UNICEF estimates that at least 1.1 million children are among those leaving Venezuela. The vast majority of people is migrating to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Colombia as the main neighbouring country is currently receiving the largest number of migrants, estimated at around 1.3 million, followed by Peru (around 800,000), Chile (almost 300,000), Ecuador (260,000) and Brazil (around 168,000). This counts as the largest displacement of people in the history of Latin America. The need for assistance for these large numbers of migrants in many regions is exceeding local capacities and resources. This is putting pressure on local governments and in certain countries overstraining their health and educational systems. The current migration crisis shows no signs of improving and the UN estimates that by the end of 2019 the total number of Venezuelan migrants will reach 5.3 million.

Caritas Switzerland, together with the Fondation Caritas Luxembourg and Caritas Germany, is responding to this crisis with the newly launched project “Europana – Promoting assistance and protection for vulnerable persons in Venezuela as well as migrants, asylum seekers and local vulnerable persons in Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru.” It is funded by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) in response to their 2018 Humanitarian Implementation Plan. By working with our network of local partners and providing assistance in many countries, we are addressing this crisis through a regional approach.

The project Europana started with a kick-off workshop that took place during the last week of July in Bogota, Colombia. 31 people from seven countries participated.

Local partners in Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru are implementing Europana during 14 months, including a two-month inception phase, focusing primarily on border regions and main cities. The project is aimed at assisting more than 34,000 beneficiaries, targeting specifically most vulnerable groups of people such as women, infants and children, the elderly, disabled people as well as indigenous and afro-descendant populations. In accordance with the Do-No-Harm principle, beneficiaries also include host community members, internally displaced people and returnees.
The project aims at filling gaps in the current humanitarian response in the five host countries where it is being implemented. As most migrants are now entering these countries without legal status, they are often exposed to all forms of risks such as exploitation, abuse, violence and discrimination. Actions are thus aimed at improving effective protection but also basic services by distributing hygiene supplies, providing adequate shelter, including cash assistance, core relief items as well as psychosocial and juridical orientation. Some activities will also complement and broaden actions in the areas of health as well as food security and nutrition. Lastly, actions will take place in the field of education for children and adolescents as well as training for teachers and educational personnel. The educational component includes extracurricular activities such as music or sports as well as working with educational institutions with the aim to facilitate the integration of Venezuelan children.

With this regional project, Europana hopes to improve the basic necessities of the beneficiaries but also to contribute with actions that are necessary to empower and educate these vulnerable populations to prepare them for a future with better living conditions.