ZOA initiates relief operation in Colombia

The millions of Venezuelans that have fled their country and the inhumane circumstances that characterise their current abodes led ZOA to launch relief and recovery operations in Latin America. Venezuela’s political and economic crisis caused millions to seek refuge in neighbouring Colombia. Those affected live in abominable conditions, deprived of basic needs like water, food, and healthcare. Exploitation and human trafficking too, lurk.

At this stage, ZOA examines where projects can be started in La Guajira province, Colombia. To see where needs are most pressing and what aid is already in place, ZOA visits a number of Venezuelan settlements across the region. Initially, the emphasis will be on clean drinking water and hygiene. “The current situation forces refugees to buy drinking water, which eats away at their already tiny budgets,” said Ina Hogendoorn, Director of ZOA’s Disaster Response Team. “Furthermore, we are looking at a dire shortage of simple latrines. Human excrement is found across residential areas. With the wet season having started, this poses a serious threat to public health.”

ZOA directs its efforts on those most vulnerable: displaced persons without any income or possessions. These groups frequently belong to lower socioeconomic strata, go without papers, and can often be found in illegal settlements where they live in makeshift housing that does not offer sufficient safety. During a subsequent phase, ZOA will also provide child shelter and schooling.

A dire shortage of drinking water and latrines poses a serious threat to public health - Ina Hogendoorn, Relief Coordinator

ZOA was active in Latin America before and ran relief and recovery programmes in Nicaragua and Honduras in the 1990s. ZOA responds to humanitarian crises connected with natural disasters and (armed) conflicts. Beyond meeting beneficiaries’ most urgent needs, we stay until a community has been put back on its feet again. Besides working on material, economic, and educational recovery, ZOA invests in psychological rehabilitation by means of trauma processing and peacebuilding.

We consider it a duty to provide relief and not let the suffering of Venezuelan refugees go unnoticed. Click here to read more about the programme.