As the economic and political crisis in Venezuela intensified over the past few months, thousands of Venezuelans crossed the border with Colombia. They often end up sleeping on the streets, like Hebert and his pregnant wife Jendy with their four children.
We meet Hebert and Jendy on the main square Parque de la India in the northern Colombian town of Riohach. Hebert (28) explains how they paid for their trip to Colombia: “We sold our fridge, TV, beds and everything of value, so we could pay for the trip to Colombia”. He, his wife Jendy (29) and their children Bryan (11), Zaida (9), Isabel (5) and Branyer (1) used to live in the Venezuelan town of San Fransisco, close to the main city of Maracaibo. “We took transport from there to the border. There we were stopped because the children did not have the right travel documents. We waited and waited, until the Venezuelan police and military did not pay attention and we could sneak across de border. It is a miracle we managed.”
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Now the family live on the streets of Riohach, since they have no more money and cannot travel further or find room to rent. They share a small mattress and a bed sheet. Jendy tells that they had no choice but to leave, since they had no jobs anymore and no money to buy food for the children. She shows the head injury of Isabel, that her daughter got recently when she fell. Since they do not have official documentation for Colombia, they cannot go to the hospital for treatment.
Five months pregnant – but no care
Hebert sits on a chair that was left as rubbish by a Colombian family. But a chair won’t protect them on the streets of Riohach. Jendy is five months pregnant. For her, pre-natal care is also not available.
“Sleeping on the streets is very dangerous, especially for our small children. I worry all the time”.
The young mother is very worried about sleeping on the street with her family. But what’s the alternative if there is have no money left?
Water, sanitation and food vouchers
Many Venezuelan families like Hebert’s and Jendy’s end up living in squatter areas at the edge of Riohacha town. Here, ZOA provides water and sanitation services. ZOA also expects to start a food voucher project soon. However, the situation of the Venezuelan families living on the streets of Colombia remains dire.
Click here to read more about our programme in Colombia.