Denmark’s emergency funding offers lifeline to Venezuelans forced to leave their country

USD 500,000 from Denmark’s Emergency Reserve Fund will support UNHCR’s work to help the increasing numbers of Venezuelans, fleeing violence, insecurity and lack of basic services.

Young Venezuelans (from left) Marcos, 11, Abdias, 9, and Noel, 13, lie on the mattress they share with a fourth boy (obscured by his pillow). They live in Cúcuta, a Colombian town at the Venezuelan border in the home of Luisa Lopes. Colombian Luisa Lopes, 35, who recently returned from Venezuela where she was a refugee has opened her home for Venezuelans now arriving in Colombia. Luisa earns 5,000 pesos (US$1.66) per day but with help from neighbours she cares for her own family of six children and grandchildren, and the extended refugee family. ©UNHCR/Paul Smith

UNHCR has released USD 500,000 (DKK 3.5 million) from Denmark’s Emergency Reserve Fund to provide immediate help to people, who have been forced to flee their homes in Venezuela due to violence, insecurity and lack of basic services. The grants from this fund will provide men, women and children who have fled Venezuela with access to basic services and core relief items in their country of asylum.

 “Considering that we are witnessing high levels of forced displacement, and increasing difficulties in finding funding to provide very much needed immediate assistance across the world, Denmark’s Emergency Reserve Fund provides flexibility for UNHCR and its partners to respond to the critical needs of Venezuelans”, says Renata Dubini, Director of UNHCR Regional Bureau for the Americas.

The number of persons forced to leave their homes as a result of the deteriorating political situation with increased violence and a dire socio-economic situation in Venezuela has increased since 2014. In 2017, nearly 50,000 persons have applied for asylum so far. In comparison, in all of 2016, some 34,000 persons sought asylum.

If this year’s trend continues, the number of Venezuelans in need of international protection will more than double by the end of 2017. The main countries for asylum-seekers in the region are Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama and Peru. Many have also sought protection further afield mainly in Spain and the United States of America.

In interviews with Venezuelans they have stated that they have left for many reasons. They fled insecurity and violence in their areas of residence and were targeted by armed or criminal groups. Some report having left due to concerns that their political or political opinions attributed to them are putting them at risk of retaliation.

Many have reported hardship due to the scarcity of food and medicine, the loss of income, and difficulty accessing essential services. Economic hardship has led some to adopt adverse coping mechanisms, including survival sex. Others are reporting that they have been subjected to exploitation and abuse in the countries they have fled to. Many are also concerned over the family they were forced to leave behind in Venezuela, including children, older persons and other family members with specific needs.

The funds from Denmark will support UNHCR and partners to strengthen monitoring and profiling activities, which are essential to further identify key protection risks and needs in order to implement an adequate response.

UNHCR is particularly concerned about the situation in border areas, where many families are settling temporarily in search of livelihood opportunities. In these areas, people are more at risk of being recruited by armed groups or criminal gangs, including child recruitment. With the funds from Denmark, UNHCR will focus on improving the shelter situation, providing core relief items, psycho-social counselling, access to education, health, and water and sanitation for Venezuelan refugees and asylum-seekers with a special focus on children and persons with specific needs.

Indigenous groups living along Venezuela’s borders with Brazil and Colombia have also been affected by the situation and been forced to flee from their ancestral lands. The funds from Denmark will be crucial in helping UNHCR – in collaboration with governments – to provide these groups with proper documentation to access rights, including shelter, livelihoods, and language classes as a first step towards local integration.


Denmark as a donor to UNHCR

Denmark has long ranked among UNHCR’s top ten donors, and was in 2016 UNHCR’s 9th largest donor with USD 60.3 million (DKK 389.5 million) in total funding

Denmark contributes with an Emergency Reserve Fund of USD 7.2 million (DKK 50.5 million) at the start of every year, which UNHCR allocates to where the needs are most urgent. This flexibility allows UNHCR to quickly respond to emergencies, which saves lives and assists displaced people with critical protection needs and acute basic necessities. The fund is also of vital importance to support so-called “forgotten” refugee crises, which are critically underfunded, as they attract limited or no public attention.

Emergency Reserve Fund allocations
In addition to the USD 0.5 million (DKK 3.5 million) allocation to the Venezuela situation, USD 0.5 million (DKK 3.5 million) has been allocated to assist refugees from the Central African Republic who have fled to Cameroon. USD 1.2 million (DKK 8.5 million) has been allocated to the Rohingya emergency. USD 1 million (DKK 7 million) each has been allocated to the Nigeria emergency, Iraq emergency, South Sudan emergency, DRC situation, and Burundi situation.

Unearmarked funding
In addition to the Emergency Reserve Fund, Denmark’s other flexible support includes USD 23.6 million (DKK 160 million) in annual unearmarked core funding.