In recent years, Venezuela has been hit by rampant inflation, political unrest, and humanitarian crisis. There are currently 4.7 million refugees and migrants and over 650,000 asylum seekers from Venezuela worldwide. According to UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency – “this is the largest exodus in the region’s recent history.”
As Venezuela’s neighbor, Colombia has borne the brunt of the crisis, hosting more than 1.6 million Venezuelans. Up to 5,000 people cross from Venezuela into Colombia every day, the majority into the border city of Cúcuta.
Colombia and Venezuela share a history of displacement and migration. During the 1980s & 1990s, when millions of Colombians were displaced by civil war, large numbers crossed into Venezuela as refugees, with many later returning to Colombia. Many more Colombians were displaced internally: there are currently 7.8 million Internally Displaced People in Colombia.
IsraAID launched its initial work in Colombia in May 2019, with an Emergency Response team arriving in the border city of Cúcuta in order to assess needs and distribute relief items to newly-arrived Venezuelans. Hygiene kits were distributed to 500 families – more than 2,000 people – in partnership with a local organization of Venezuelans based in Cúcuta.
Child Friendly Spaces in Barranquilla
IsraAID has established two Child-Friendly Spaces in the area, in partnership with local groups. Daily activities at each center provide developmentally appropriate activities, following a Social and Emotional Learning
curriculum used with displaced children around the world and adapted for the local context.
IsraAID and our partner Techo built the physical structure of the center in La Playa, with volunteers from the refugee and host communities. IsraAID and UNICEF now partner on activities in La Playa. IsraAID also established a Child Friendly Space in partnership with Cedesocial in Ville Selene, near the city’s bus station, which is where most Venezuelans arrive in the city. IsraAID is the Co-Chair, with UNICEF, of the Child Protection Working Group in Barranquilla.
IsraAID’s centers serve both Venezuelan and Colombian children. Many members of the Colombian host community are themselves either IDPs or returned refugees, whose families were displaced during the country’s long civil conflict. The activities at both centers are facilitated by community members, after extensive training by IsraAID’s mental health and child protection professionals.
Child Protection, Access to Education and Psychosocial Support for Venezuelan and Colombian Children
Launched two Child Friendly Spaces serving 50 children each every day