Gregory Le Blanc, director of HI in Colombia | © Juan Manuel Vargas/HI
Gregory Le Blanc, Director of HI Colombia, tells us about the situation facing Venezuelan refugees in Colombia and describes HI's emergency response.
"The serious political and economic crisis in Venezuela makes life a little harder every day and more and more people are moving to neighbouring countries. An estimated 3.4 million Venezuelans have fled around the world, including more than two million to Colombia.The Colombian authorities are overwhelmed by this influx of people and the need to assist them. Women, children, older people and people with disabilities are worst affected.
The fact that some no longer have ID documents or residency permits, and are unaware how to regularise 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, however, but it is just as important.
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. HI 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, regularising their situation, etc.) in Medellin, in conjunction with the local council, the university, etc., and with HI’s lawyers. The organisation’s teams of rehabilitation professionals also help train some health services, provide care, directly and/or through specialised centres, and supply crutches, walking frames and equipment 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."