The deepening political and socio-economic crisis in Venezuela has led to one of the biggest mass displacements in the history of South America. Although no consolidated figure for the region is available, all sources indicate that migration from Venezuela to neighbouring countries is drastically increasing. 117,300 Venezuelans filed asylum claims in the first half of 2018 alone, already more than the number of asylum claims reported at the end of 2017 (113,438).
Many Venezuelans in host countries are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Food, nutrition, health and WASH needs have been identified. Protection assistance is also crucial, including legal help with documentation in order to access healthcare and employment. Venezuelan migrants also face growing xenophobia from host communities, and are at risk of exploitation, trafficking, and SGBV.
As the crisis inside Venezuela continues to deteriorate, host countries are increasingly struggling to respond to the influx of Venezuelans. The rising number of people entering neighbouring countries is putting a strain on basic services, especially in border areas. Recent measures in several countries deter Venezuelans from entering, such as limiting admission to people with a passport, or enforcing quotas at the border.
Following the signing of the peace agreement between the Government and the FARC in 2016, there has been a reshuffling of illegal armed groups such as the ELN and EPL, with an escalation of fighting for the control of land and illicit crop production in areas vacated by FARC. Over 30,000 people were displaced in mass displacements in 2018, double the amount recorded in 2017. Attacks against human rights activists and community leaders also increased in 2018. The Venezuelan refugee crisis, with over 1 million Venezuelans now living in Colombia, is aggravating the overall humanitarian situation. The convergence of both crises is particularly severe in the Catatumbo region, Norte de Santander, where the presence of armed groups is causing displacement and increasing protection needs for Venezuelan migrants.
130mm of rain fell in the city of Mocoa in southwest Colombia between 23:00 on 31 March and 01:00 on 1 April local time (between 05:00 and 07:00 GMT), causing the flooding of the Mocoa, Mulato, and Sangoyaco Rivers, and several mudslides throughout Mocoa (Sky News 02/04/2017).
At least 254 people have died, 200 were injured, 200 remain missing, and around 1,200 have been affected by the floods (Floodlist 02/04/2017 ; ABC 02/04/2017). 17 neighbourhoods of Mocoa have been affected (in the area shown on the map below). Areas in southern Mocoa have been the hardest hit: San Miguel (which may have been completely destroyed), Los Laureles, San Fernando, and El Progreso (Colombia Reports 01/04/2017).
The Zika virus epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean is most affecting Brazil, with over one million cases estimated. Colombia reports over 18,000 confirmed and 2,000 suspected cases and anticipates over 650,000. El Salvador reports over 6,000 suspected cases. Venezuela reports over 4,500 confirmed cases, however unofficial estimates are thought to be as high as 400,000.
An alert to the first confirmed case of Zika virus in Brazil was issued in May 2015 by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). As of 1 February, Zika has been confirmed in 23 countries in South and Central America and the Caribbean. The spread of the disease is likely to continue as the vector species, the Aedes mosquito, is widely distributed in the region.
On 1 February 2016 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika a public health emergency, following a significant increase in the number of reported cases since the start of the year. The last time WHO declared a global health emergency was during the Ebola outbreak. The current Zika outbreak is unlikely to present a crisis of the same scale; the declaration has been issued to fast-track aid and further research, particularly due to a potential link with neurological disorders and congenital birth defects.
The economic crisis in Venezuela has led to a deterioration of the humanitarian conditions and increased humanitarian needs. Import restrictions and hyperinflation reduce availability and access to basic goods and services. The economic crisis is exacerbated by a political crisis revolving around the erosion of democratic institutions. While the number of people in need in Venezuela and the severity of need is unclear due to lack of data, surveys conducted by local organisations point to an increasingly dire situation. Migration to other countries in South America, particularly Colombia and Brazil, has significantly increased since 2017 and the host countries are increasingly struggling to receive these arrivals. Over one million Venezuelans are estimated to live in Colombia, up from some 300,000 in mid-2017. Priority needs of people affected by the crisis inside Venezuela include food, health, nutrition, and protection. Many migrants from Venezuela hosted by countries in the region also face growing humanitarian concerns, particularly protection and shelter needs.