Save The Children Sounds The Alarm About Venezuelan Refugee Crisis
Category: Save the Children
Save the Children has is warning that hundreds of thousands of children who have fled Venezuela for Columbia are vulnerable. The international humanitarian agency says political violence and economic insecurity in Venezuela means that there has been a worrying rise in the level of malnutrition rates. Save the Children estimates that every week at least half a dozen children die as a result of food shortages.
Fleeing to escape starvation
As they seek to escape starvation families as well as unaccompanied minors are fleeing into Columbia. There they are at risk of being kidnapped and exploited by human traffickers, criminal gangs or other armed groups. A Save the Children UK spokesperson Tamara Lowe says the rapidly deteriorating economic and political situation in Venezuela that has produced hyperinflation and caused mass unemployment has also resulted in shortages of both food and medicine. Ms Lowe adds that those that are fleeing to Columbia are not just Venezuelans but also Colombians who sought refuge in Venezuela when their country underwent civil war. Now they are again facing another situation of displacement.
Ms Lowe says that more than half a million people have fled to Columbia over the past year. Of them, 49 per cent are children and most are exhibiting signs of extreme malnutrition. If they are lucky a family will be able to eat at least once a day. Even after arriving in Columbia Mr Lowe says the refugees find it very hard to improve their lives. Most cannot afford to purchase travel documents so they cross the border illegally. As a result, they have no legal rights and cannot access healthcare or education. Many people end up living on the streets and have little or no protection from the rain and tend to live in areas that are prone to flooding which compounds the risk of an outbreak of disease.
Risk of disease and violence
Ms Lowe says that the regions where the refugees travel to are already poverty stricken and are typically areas where guerrilla forces or other armed groups are active. Local reaction to the influx of refugees have been mixed. Some have reciprocated the help they received when Columbia was struck by civil war, others display overt xenophobia in response to increased for competition for jobs and services. Save the Children is particularly concerned with unaccompanied minors crossing the borders who are vulnerable to paramilitary or armed groups who have connections with human traffickers and criminal gangs.
Support for young migrants
Ms Lowe concludes that Save the Children is operating child friendly spaces where unaccompanied minors or young migrants are protected. There they receive psychological support as well as have the opportunity to play with other children. They also receive basic education in the hope that it will help them forget about everything they have been through.
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