This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
As Latin America emerges as the new epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, warns of worsening conditions for displaced Venezuelans in the southern region of the continent as winter approaches.
In addition to health risks, COVID-related lockdowns and confinement measures have already resulted in severe hardship for Venezuelan refugee and migrants. Many have now lost their livelihoods and are faced with poverty, destitution, eviction, widespread hunger and food insecurity as well as increased protection risks.
As national capacities are stretched to breaking point, access to public health services and timely medical care is also a challenge, especially for those in an irregular situation.
UNHCR is worried that their plight could now worsen with the onset of winter as temperatures drop in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, which together host more than 1.5 million Venezuelans.
With the approaching cold weather, UNHCR is bracing for a deepening of the crisis. The winter season will considerably increase the need for humanitarian and medical assistance, including to respond to other types of respiratory diseases, such as influenza.
UNHCR expects an increase in the numbers of those that will now require emergency shelter and winter items such as blankets, warm clothing, medicine and fuel to heat their homes.
Shelter, food, hygiene kits and cash assistance are already critically needed for many vulnerable Venezuelan refugees and migrants living in precarious conditions, who are at risk of becoming homeless or living on the streets.
UNHCR is stepping up its response to face this double challenge. Together with partners, UNHCR is continuing to provide emergency shelters, rental subsidies, and other material assistance. UNHCR is also strengthening humanitarian partnerships to be able to provide essential healthcare for refugees in vulnerable conditions.
In the continent’s southern region, UNHCR is also delivering assistance through cash-based interventions to help refugees and migrants prioritise their most urgent needs during winter.
In Chile, almost 790 Venezuelan families have already received virtual multipurpose vouchers that enable them to buy products in local stores and supermarkets, including clothes, fuel or hot meals.
In Peru, where torrential rains and snow are expected during winter, UNHCR has prioritized support in refugee host regions, such as Cusco, which stands at 3,400 metres above sea level and where temperatures can drop to well below zero degrees Celsius.
So far, more than 2,000 basic-needs kits and 4,700 blankets have been distributed to vulnerable Venezuelans and their host communities, while cash transfers continue for those most at risk.
Winter assistance is also planned for vulnerable displaced Venezuelans in Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia as cold weather hits the region in the coming weeks.
UNHCR welcomes the recent commitments made on Tuesday at a virtual International Donors Conference for Venezuelan refugees and migrants. Donors at the conference committed US$2.79 billion to support refugees, migrants and host communities in countries across the region where Venezuelans have found safety, healthcare and jobs.
For more information on this topic, please contact:
- In Panama, William Spindler, email@example.com, +507 6382 7815
- In Panama, Olga Sarrado, firstname.lastname@example.org, +507 6640 0185
- In Geneva, Shabia Mantoo, email@example.com, + 41 79337 7650
- In New York, Kathryn Mahoney, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 347 443 7646
Originally published on UNHCR on 29 May 2020