Actress Angelina Jolie visited Venezuelan refugees in Colombia this weekend, praising them as the “strongest people in the world” while calling on the international community to provide more assistance.
Speaking to reporters in the city of Maicao, near the Venezuelan border, Jolie said that displaced Venezuelans were among the “strongest people in the world” after she met with children affected by the crisis.
UNHCR special envoy Angelina Jolie called Venezuelan refugees at the Colombian border the “strongest people in the world” pic.twitter.com/MzvAvDh1r2
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) June 8, 2019
Over four million people have fled Venezuela in response to the country’s devastating economic and humanitarian crisis, triggered by over two decades of socialist rule under Hugo Chávez and his successor Nicolás Maduro. During their time in power, Venezuela has been transformed from one of Latin America’s highest performing economies to one of the poorest nations in the world.
The influx of Venezuelans into Colombia recently reached over 1.2 million, making it the most popular destination for those fleeing the crisis. The mass migration of people continues to exert extreme pressure on the country’s public services. Jolie called on the international community to contribute more to alleviate the humanitarian suffering.
“The impact on public services here in Colombia is staggering,” Jolie said in a statement. “Some border hospitals are now providing emergency health care to as many Venezuelans as Colombians. Many schools have doubled the number of students in their classrooms.”
This is a life and death situation for millions of Venezuelans. But UNHCR has received only a fraction of the funds it needs, to do even the bare minimum to help them survive.
The countries receiving them, like Colombia, are trying to manage an unmanageable situation with insufficient resources. But neither they nor humanitarian actors like UNHCR are getting the funds they need in order to keep the pace with the influx, and yet they still do everything they can.
The exodus from Venezuela is the largest and fastest movement of people in Latin America's recent history.
— UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) June 8, 2019
The United States remains the most generous contributor to help stop the humanitarian crisis, sending multiple aid packages to Colombia to help arrivals from Venezuela. Last month, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the Venezuela Emergency Relief, Democracy Assistance, and Development (VERDAD) Act on Wednesday, aimed at providing a further $400 million in humanitarian assistance, the biggest single contribution yet. Venezuela has repeatedly blocked U.S. aid shipments, preventing Washington from helping anyone in the country.
Jolie, who serves as an envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, also met with Colombian President Iván Duque in the port city of Cartagena, where she urged him to provide “legal status” to the estimated 20,000 children of Venezuelan migrants.