Photo Credit: courtesy, IsraAID
At the border between Columbia and Venezuela, Israeli humanitarian aid workers are helping Venezuelan refugees

Israeli aid workers are on their way to provide humanitarian assistance at the border between Colombia and Venezuela, a flash point in the ongoing crisis taking place in Venezuela as a result of the struggle between dictator Nicolas Maduro and interim President Juan Guaido, whose legitimacy is recognized by most of Europe, the United States and Israel.

On Monday, Maduro proposed early elections for the National Assembly, which is headed by opposition leader Juan Guaido, and is the sole body recognized as democratically legitimate by most Western nations. The opposition won a majority in the National Assembly in 2015 and new elections are scheduled for late 2020. Maduro is gradually losing support among the military, which at first completely backed him.

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The IsraAID humanitarian aid agency has dispatched an emergency response team to the city of Cúcuta, on Colombia’s border with Venezuela, where displacement is growing day by day.

“The Venezuelan refugee crisis has rapidly developed into one of the world’s most serious humanitarian emergencies. With thousands crossing into Colombia every day, local communities and responders on the ground are being stretched to breaking point,” said Yotam Polizer, IsraAID co-CEO.

Thousands have been crossing the Simon Bolivar bridge from Venezuela into Cúcuta every day seeking relief from the continued economic and political crisis in the country. IsraAID’s team has already started distributing relief supplies and delivering sanitation and hygiene activities for Venezuelan refugees in the city, according to a release from the organization. Needs on the ground are extremely urgent with 1.2 million Venezuelan refugees already in Colombia.

“Our team reached the Colombia-Venezuela border last week, where they confronted an increasingly urgent situation, with vulnerable people crossing the border in desperate need of basic supplies, emergency relief, and protection,” Polizer said.

“IsraAID will work with both refugee and host communities to meet these needs, and we plan to stay for the long term,” he added, saying the organization will work side by side with the local community and Venezuelan refugee organizations in Columbia.

Last Friday (May 17) the IsraAID team distributed relief materials and conducted hygiene promotion activities for 500 newly-arrived Venezuelans at the border crossing in partnership with Fundacion Venezolanos en Cúcuta, an organization of locally-based Venezuelans who provide support to new arrivals as they enter Colombia.

Access to food, medical supplies and protection resources for Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Colombia are severely limited, raising fears of a growing secondary crisis at the border and among displaced communities. Around 5,000 Venezuelans arrive daily in Columbia, adding to the more than 3.4 million Venezuelan refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants spread across the region.

IsraAID’s plan includes child protection and back-to-school activities, community resilience-building and psychological support, hygiene and sanitation promotion and relief distributions.

The organization currently has active recovery teams across the region, supporting communities affected by the El Fuego Volcano eruption in Guatemala, the 2017 earthquakes in Mexico, and Hurricane Maria in Dominica and Puerto Rico.

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