New York, USA, 13 May 2022 — Despite the urgent humanitarian needs that 7 million Venezuelans have inside the country, and the challenges that the 6 million who have left encounter in host communities, support and funding from the international community have been insufficient, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) warns.
Throughout Latin America, multiple overlapping humanitarian crises and lack of collaborative solutions continue to make millions of people endure deteriorating living conditions and force many to displace in the search for safety and protection. To address the current emergencies in the region—including the one faced by Venezuelans—a comprehensive and harmonized response is required. Looking to the Summit of the Americas, participating countries are expected to sign a regional declaration on migration and protection. As states across the Americas negotiate the application of this agreement, the IRC recommends that:
- Donors and host states agree to concrete commitments on financing and responsibility-sharing, in addition to the creation of a framework for harmonization of migration policies across the region. Such policies should be agreed to with robust input from civil society, comprising aspects like protection; documentation; access to education, work and health care; and pathways to regularization.
- International financial institutions incorporate lessons learned from multilaterally-supported and funded compact initiatives in other humanitarian and protection emergencies into the responses in Latin America.
- Engagement of non-U.S. donors is fostered, promoted by actors like UNHCR, the World Bank, and the United States to strengthen the humanitarian responses in Latin America.
Meghan Lopez, Regional Vice President for Latin America at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), said:
“As negotiations on displacement and migration continue between Latin American and U.S. authorities ahead of the Summit of the Americas, we call for the development of a harmonized, regional response to the humanitarian crises impacting the region, including the one that Venezuelans are facing.
“Latin American countries like Colombia, Ecuador and Peru have shouldered the response to the needs of Venezuelans despite insufficient support from the international community. For instance, in 2021, only 40% of what was required by the Venezuela Humanitarian Response Plan was funded. Mexico meanwhile continues to receive those seeking safety from across Latin America and beyond–including thousands of Venezuelans. With the third highest number of asylum requests last year, Mexico faces challenges being able to provide safety and support to those who need it, considering that even the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR) was radically understaffed. As the U.S. has become the largest donor—providing 66% of the funding obtained for the region’s six Humanitarian Response Plans and the Refugee and Migrant Response Plan for Venezuela in 2021—there is an opportunity to lead the response to a situation that threatens stability in the region.
“The organization of a compact agreement is crucial to bring together donors–including non-U.S. donors–and international financing institutions to galvanize long-term funding for the response, standardize policies across host countries and unite the global community in addressing a crisis that otherwise could be forgotten.”
Challenges ahead for Venezuelans
In the 2022 Emergency Watchlist, the IRC identified Venezuela as one the 20 countries at greatest risk of experiencing a significant deterioration in their humanitarian conditions over the current year. According to the IRC’s report, more than 7 million Venezuelans in the country are in need of aid, dealing with risks that span from escalating conflict resulting from the clashes between national forces and armed non-state groups, to growing hunger and the effects of COVID-19 on the economy and even the health system.
But difficulties for Venezuelans continue even after arriving in host communities. While Latin American countries have hosted a vast number of Venezuelans, a combination of differing immigration policies and stretched national systems are putting pressure on their capacity to respond:
- In Colombia, which is still recovering from its own armed conflict, it is expected that 7.7 million will find themselves in humanitarian need during 2022. Despite the country’s welcoming regularization and protection policies—including the establishment of a Temporary Protected Status—Venezuelans might still encounter gaps like digital illiteracy or lack of documentation to access these mechanisms or even basic services, including health care and education.
- Peru, the second largest host, has seen COVID-related consequences worsen living conditions for Venezuelans in the country. According to an assessment conducted by the IRC in late 2021, Venezuelans faced extreme needs related to fair and safe income-generating opportunities, food security and access to health care and medicines.
- In Ecuador, the third largest host with over 500,000 Venezuelans, access to livelihood opportunities and basic services is an everyday struggle. Rising xenophobia is another obstacle: 56% of people surveyed by the IRC reported to have experienced it at least once.
The IRC’s response to the Venezuela crisis
The IRC is on the ground delivering a collective response to support Venezuelans holistically—and timely—where they need it most: implementing programming with a mixed model of partnerships with local organizations and direct implementation in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, and providing support for populations at risk through local organizations in Venezuela.