At least one million people have entered Colombia from Venezuela since President Nicolas Maduro‘s government descended into crisis last year, a senior Red Cross official said on Wednesday.
The health director at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Emanuele Capobianco, told AFP that not all have stayed in Colombia as displaced people, with some moving on to other countries in the region.
“To date we know that approximately one million people have entered Colombia through official migration points, and we don’t know how many have entered Colombia through unofficial migration points,” he said in a phone interview in Geneva, specifying that this movement had occurred “since mid-2017.”
With the economic crisis in Venezuela intensifying, an estimated 37,000 people were now moving across the Colombian border each day, he added.
On a recent trip to the region, Capobianco said he witnessed “a constant stream of people,” leaving Venezuela, some with their belongings strapped to the backs.
While the group is diverse, with some only looking to work in Colombia for a short period before returning home, most are on the move because they cannot meet their basic needs in Venezuela, Capobianco explained.
He described the situation as a “humanitarian crisis that needs to be better assessed,” including from a public health standpoint amid rising cases of malaria, diphtheria and other serious ailments affecting those migrating.
Maduro’s alleged crackdown on opposition and bid to consolidate control of the country has triggered a tough global response, notably from the United States which has levied tough sanctions.
The South American country is in partial default on its debt and suffers severe shortages of food and medicines despite sitting atop the planet’s biggest proven oil reserves.
Caracas has been printing money as foreign reserves dwindle, and the national currency, the bolivar, has become nearly worthless.