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A woman with her children in Colombia

We are here in Colombia

More than one-sixth of the population has left Venezuela since 2015. Almost one third of all of those who leave Venezuela go to neighbouring Colombia. The country hosts 1.7 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees. Many of them arrive illegally. This affects their ability to access essential services, protection and assistance.

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 The largest exile crisis in the history of the region

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Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Colombia
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internally displaced people in Colombia
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confirmed deaths from COVID-19

Emergency aid 

Focus on the most vulnerable

In May 2019, ZOA started its operations in Colombia to respond to the needs of the many Venezuelans who seek refuge in Colombia. The Venezuelans flee from a bankrupt country were food, fuel and medicines are no longer available due to the extremely high inflation. Many of them only take what they can carry.

ZOA provides assistance to vulnerable Venezuelan migrants and host community members. In La Guajira, we work with Venezuelan migrants, indigenous Wayuu and poor host populations. Since August 2020, we are also active in Arauca, a border department that has become an important legal entry point for migrants into Colombia. Here, we mainly help the most vulnerable caminantes, refugees and migrants travelling on foot. We focus on WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) and food sfecurity.

Access to clean water and food in La Guajira

La Guajira is one of the poorest desert departments in northern Colombia that suffers from chronic water shortages. Here, the most vulnerable Venezuelan migrants and host community members live in informal settlements facing extreme challenges: no access to public water and sanitation facilities. In 2020, ZOA constructed 1,275 household pit latrines (to reduce the prevalence of open-air defecation), distributed 1,000 water filters and 2,355 hygiene kits, and provided 2,300 handwashing stations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

In the northernmost part of La Guajira, we support the Wayuu population with cash assistance and food. The Wayuu inhabit the Venezuela-Colombia border area and have been receiving support for a long time of the United Nations World Food Programme. As a partner, ZOA has been sharing an average of 25,000 food parcels per year since 2021 to the poor in La Guajira.

Support for caminantes in Arauca

Arauca is home to the second most transited migrant land route in Colombia. Due to the continuing decline of Venezuela, the poorest migrants are now leaving their country by foot. These brave caminantes walk hundreds of kilometres without any support. ZOA is helping to reactivate the only assistance point on the entire route, so migrants can have access to clean drinking water, toilets, showers, and hygiene kits

In cooperation with the government, we started a pilot project to provide caminantes with an electronic card. They can use this card along their route over a distance of 360 kilometers. This allows them to decide for themselves what they want to buy, depending on the needs of the family members. 

Working together

Donors and partners

Our work in Colombia is funded by our constituency in the Netherlands. In Colombia, we work with WFP and local organisation Fundación Halü.

Woman talking to a ZOA worker in Colombia

Laura, Colombia

My kids were crying: 'In Venezuela we had no food, but here is no shelter to protect us.' Fortunately, ZOA gave us materials for building a latrine. I am very grateful for their support!"