Helping Venezuelan refugees and migrants affected by COVID-19

Venezuela has been experiencing a severe socio-political and economic crisis for several years. The collapse of basic services and deterioration of living conditions have forced more than 6.8 million Venezuelans to leave their homes since 2014, with approximately 5 million residing in other countries in the Latin American and Caribbean regions, primarily Colombia, Peru and Chile. This crisis is the largest exodus in Latin America’s recent history and one of the largest displacement crises in the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the complex humanitarian emergency in Venezuela and surrounding host countries. Although COVID-19 initially brought some refugees back to Venezuela, shortages of fuel, electricity and clean water led to riots and renewed emigration in the fall of 2020.

As the crisis has evolved and deepened over the past several years, entire families that had little economic means to begin with have been faced with dire food and income shortages in Venezuela, forcing them to try their luck as refugees in neighboring countries such as Peru. These families, like the one featured in the photo above, must sometimes wait for days at border crossings to have their asylum cases reviewed by Peruvian officials, with no promise that legal entry will be permitted.

In October 2020, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy awarded a grant to Lutheran World Relief (LWR) to support their partnership with local organizations in Peru working to improve access to psychosocial support, livelihood recovery services, and crucial COVID-19 information for Venezuelan refugees and migrants.

Support from the CDP grant made it possible for LWR and their partners to travel to sites outside of Lima to share information about the services available through the VenInformado platform – a dynamic, multi-service digital platform for Venezuelan migrants and refugees in Peru. VenInformado allowed families and individuals direct, free access to trustworthy information, including information about COVID protection and vaccination access, and also to attorneys and immigration specialists who could help them navigate the process of obtaining legal status in Peru.

Additionally, the CDP funding allowed LWR and its local partners Encuentros Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes (SJM) and Centro de Atención Psicosocial to significantly expand VenInformado’s scope and reach by publishing guidance on legal, economic and mental health matters, providing critical information on the spread of COVID-19 and its impact on public services, and offering additional personalized support, including for cases involving gender-based violence.

In the photo above, a Venezuelan migrant family in Piura, Peru, is given information about VenInformado and the available services by Pedre Arrupe, one of Encuentros SJM’s lawyers. By the end of the project period, CDP-supported activities reached 45,742 migrants and refugees with messaging on the VenInformado platform.

CDP is proud to support LWR and its efforts to help Venezuelan migrants and refugees, already at risk due to displacement, get the information and support they need to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and improve their lives and livelihoods.

(Photo: Venezuelan migrant family in Piura, Peru receives information about the VenInformado platform. Source: Lutheran World Relief)