Migrants from Venezuela (Venezuelans, Colombian returnees and mixed families) have crossed in droves into Colombian soil due to the lack of food, medicine, safety and basic services at home. According to Immigration authorities, close to 1 million Venezuelans have settled in Colombia in search for a better life.
At the request of the Colombian Government, in April of this year, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) launched a humanitarian operation to provide food assistance to the increasing numbers of migrants in the departments of Arauca, La Guajira and Norte de Santander, located on the Colombian-Venezuelan border. Operations have now expanded to Nariño, a department on Venezuela’s border with Ecuador.
WFP is supporting migrant families that have left Venezuela in five key ways:
1. Providing hot meals
Migrants who stop by transit stations after crossing the border or wait in line at community kitchens receive breakfast and lunch. WFP is supporting the Catholic Church and other social organizations that provide hot meals, especially to women, children, senior citizens and people with disabilities. Currently, WFP is supporting 22 community kitchens in the four departments, and hopes to expand coverage to another 20. Some 33,000 people have received hot meals since the beginning of the operation.
2. Giving pre-paid cards
Migrant families living in temporary shelters or informal settlements are receiving pre-paid cards valued at US$ 34 (or 96,000 Colombian pesos) that they can exchange for food and other basic need items at local shops that have been previously selected by WFP. Purchasing alcohol, cigarettes, clothes, paper products and electric appliances is prohibited. To date, some 19,550 people have received pre-paid cards.
3. Support to indigenous communities
The Wayúu indigenous communities in La Guajira are welcoming a growing number of migrants and indigenous returnees from Venezuela. These small communities, however, are not prepared to manage or absorb the newcomers. In August, WFP will launch emergency food distributions and activities that will promote integration and peace among migrants and host families.
4. Nutritional supplements for children between the ages of 6 and 59 months
Migrants are vulnerable. This is especially true of children, who are at a high risk of suffering from malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies. This can result in acute malnutrition and other chronic illnesses. WFP and the Government of Colombia are exploring the possibility of providing nutritional supplements to young migrants.
5. Support to school meals in La Guajira
School meals can meet the nutritional needs of children, and help keep them in the classroom. This is particularly true in times of crisis. In La Guajira, WFP is supporting the growing school feeding programme for Venezuelan migrants and Colombian returnees. The goal is to provide 30,000 school meals until the end of the year so the children remain in school.
This humanitarian response is possible thanks to the support of the Government of the United States of America, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and the private sector. Collectively, they have provided US$ 21 million of the US$ 43.8 million WFP needs to provide food assistance to migrants until the end of 2018.