Colombian border towns on verge of crisis as thousands of Venezuelans seek refuge in the region
With over a million refugees now on Colombian soil, Malteser International – the Order of Malta’s worldwide relief agency – is providing emergency relief along the Colombian-Venezuelan border in northern La Guajira to prevent the prolongation of a humanitarian crisis in the area. “For the last three years, Malteser International Americas and its primary partners on the ground have provided health and rural development, emergency relief, developed strategic local partnerships and cemented a trust with indigenous communities” stated Ravi Tripptrap, Executive Director, Malteser International Americas.
“This combined with our unparalleled cultural and geographical access and deep knowledge of remote Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities allows us to work in their communities and prevent further crises from erupting across international borders,” Tripptrap said.
The Order of Malta’s worldwide relief agency begins the first phase of emergency interventions this week in the urban center of Riohacha, as well in five initial surrounding Wayuu settlements. Working alongside local partners, local government entities, and community members, the emergency efforts include distributing critical hygiene kits for 2000 refugees, providing emergency medical relief for 1,800 Venezuelan refugees and 800 indigenous people in host communities, and establishing sustainable systems and food security initiatives to integrate indigenous Venezuelan refugees into indigenous host communities, which will benefit host communities and refugees.
Unofficial figures and estimates, including uncontrolled border crossing, suggest that there are now more than 1 million refugees and asylum seekers in Colombia (65% Venezuelans, 35% returning Colombians), with up to 8,000 people crossing the Colombian border daily.
Since 2015, Malteser International Americas (from its New York City headquarter) has provided health and nutrition relief and development to internally displaced people and particularly marginalized Afro-Colombian and indigenous people in the region, specifically the Wayuu, Colombia’s largest indigenous population.