Hemispheric securityIsraelis rush to aid Venezuelan refugees in Colombia

By Abigail Klein Leichman

Published 21 May 2019

Israeli NGO begins relief distributions in Colombia as thousands escape worsening conditions across the border daily.

Israeli humanitarian aid agencyIsraAID reports that it has dispatched an emergency response team to the city of Cúcuta, on Colombia’s border with Venezuela, which is a flashpoint in the ongoing Venezuelan displacement crisis.

Thousands cross the Simon Bolivar Bridge from Venezuela into Cúcuta every day seeking relief from the continued economic and political crisis in the country.

On 17 May, IsraAID’s team distributed relief materials and conducted hygiene-promotion activities for 500 newly arrived Venezuelans at the border crossing, in partnership with Fundacion Venezolanos en Cúcuta, an organization of Venezuelans who provide support to new arrivals entering Colombia.

“Needs on the ground are extremely urgent with 1.2 million Venezuelan refugees already in Colombia,” said co-CEO Yotam Polizer, calling the Venezuelan refugee crisis one of the world’s most serious humanitarian emergencies.

“Access to food, medical supplies and protection resources for Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Colombia is severely limited, raising fears of a growing secondary crisis at the border and among displaced communities. Around 5,000 Venezuelans are arriving in the country daily, adding to the more than 3.4 million Venezuelan refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants spread across the region.”

IsraAID’s response plan will include child-protection and back-to-school activities, community resilience-building and psychological support, hygiene and sanitation promotion and relief distributions.

“IsraAID will work with both refugee and host communities to meet these needs, and we plan to stay for the long term,” Polizer said.

IsraAID currently has active recovery teams across the region, supporting communities affected by the 2018 El Fuego Volcano eruption in Guatemala, the 2017 earthquakes in Mexico, and Hurricane Maria in Dominica and Puerto Rico.

The organization also has recent experience in Colombia, responding to the 2017 mudslides in Mocoa, providing safe water access and psychosocial support programming to affected communities in partnership with local authorities, NGOs, and the local Jewish community.

IsraAID’s emergency response in Colombia is supported by AJC and additional generous donors. Donations to IsraAID’s Venezuelan refugee crisis response can be made through the IsraAID Emergency Response Fund.

Abigail Klein Leichman is a writer and associate editor at ISRAEL21c. This article is published courtesy of Israel21c.