AN EMERGENCY plan has been launched by the United Nations to help the urgent needs of millions of refugees and migrants who are fleeing Venezuela.
Announced last Friday, the joint venture between the UN refugee agency UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration seeks to help those caught up in “the largest exodus from a single country in the region” in recent years.
An estimated three million have left Venezuela, largely for other South and Central American countries, at a rate of 5500 a day.
The UN’s joint special representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants, Eduardo Stein, said that the migrants and refugees spoke of “hunger, lack of access to medical care, insecurity, threats, fear”.
Mr Stein continued: “They are families, women alone, children, young boys and girls, all in conditions of extreme vulnerability. All of them saw no other option than to leave their country — sometimes walking for days — seeking to live in dignity and to build a future.”
An appeal for funding was also launched: an estimated $738 million is needed next year for “direct emergency assistance, protection, socio-economic and cultural integration, and strengthening capacities in the receiving countries”.
The Roman Catholic Church in Latin America has been assisting refugees. Cúcuta diocese, in Colombia, received the Portafolio Award for supporting migrants.
The online RC newspaper Crux Now reported that Fr Francesco Bortignon and Fr David Caña Pérez accepted the award. Fr Caña Pérez said: “Today, we distribute more than 8000 lunches daily: 3000 at the transit center; and throughout the entire city we have six soup kitchens where Fr Francisco and the other priests are providing a service.”
The President of the Colombian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Oscar Urbina Ortega, said in October that the RC Church in Colombia suffered “this time of so much pain” along with the migrants, and, at the same time, is “committed to providing them the aid that encourages them to carry on in the daily struggle to rebuild the social fabric of their country”.
It was reported that Pope Francis met Venezuelan bishops in September, and that he told them to stay close to the people.