More than 980,000 people have been contaminated by Covid-19 in Colombia, which has been severely affected by the virus. Many older people fear starvation or serious illness in a country where little or no provision is made for social assistance, pensions, and other welfare benefits. In recent months, the lockdown has seriously impacted the four million Venezuelans living in Colombia, who can no longer earn a living from the informal economy. In Colombia, the severe economic crisis caused by the epidemic has increased the precariousness of Venezuelan refugees who have lost their jobs and homes, and are unable to access food, drinking water, electricity, and the like.
The security situation is also extremely tense:
“Armed groups have used the lockdown to tighten their grip over certain territories where the authorities have a weak hold. They have cast themselves as ‘Covid crisis controllers', sowing terror, asserting their authority, imposing curfews, carrying out attacks against people who meet without authorisation, and so on,"
explains Debir Valdelamar, Deputy Project Officer for HI in Colombia.
HI has assisted Venezuelan refugees since April 2019 and adapted its response to the epidemic.
With support from ECHO, the organisation is currently allocating financial support on a six-monthly basis to more than 200 Venezuelan refugee families identified as highly vulnerable. Most use the money to pay for rent, food or healthcare.
HI has also handed out food and hygiene kits containing soap, hydroalcoholic gel, and the like, and conducted awareness sessions on Covid-19, which included 12 videos translated into Venezuelan and Colombian sign language to inform the most vulnerable individuals on prevention measures, Covid symptoms, and so on.
HI is also helping indigenous people cope with the epidemic:
“The first lockdown in Colombia was national. Regional authorities now decide on local prevention measures, which vary from one department to another. Many indigenous communities are still in full lockdown, or can no longer work or earn money, so our food distributions are extremely welcome. In November, we plan to distribute food and hygiene kits to 3,000 families,"
adds Debir Valdelamar.
HI also continues to provide psychological support and rehabilitation care to mine victims in the departments of Cauca, Meta, Antioquia, Caqueta, and Nariño.