Norwegian support for Venezuelan refugees provides vital economic stability to families

Funding from Norway is supporting Venezuelan refugees and migrants affected by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Confinement has left Maria and her family with no income. Norwegian support has made a huge difference to Maria and her family in these troubled times.
© UNHCR/Angela Hurtado

COVID-19 knows no borders and threatens the health of millions of people. It also poses socioeconomic risks with severe consequences for the livelihoods of refugees. Funding from Norway is supporting Venezuelan refugees and migrants affected by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Displaced Venezuelans were already struggling, having left their country due to violence, persecution, political instability and food and medicine shortages. Now, their lives have been further disrupted by the pandemic.

As of July 2020, 5.3 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela are living outside their country, in what is already the largest displacement crisis in Latin America’s modern history and one of the largest in the world. As Venezuelans follow quarantine and isolation measures in their host countries, many of them have lost their income – and with this, their means of providing for their families. Venezuelan grandmother, Maria, aged 55 and living in Medellín, Colombia, with her son, daughter-in-law and their twin daughters, is one of them.

Maria started working selling snacks and coffee as a street vendor in Medellín. As soon as the isolation and quarantine measures were implemented, however, she could no longer earn her living. She worried about losing the small apartment she lived in with her family, as her son also lost his job. In order for her daughter-in-law to be able to continue breastfeeding, skipping meals became routine.

“At one point, we were only eating one meal a day. We can perhaps endure it, but I cannot imagine us living like this. I’m praying to heaven to resolve the situation, so that we can go back to a normal life,” she said.

Even though refugees and migrants like Maria have been forced to leave their homes to seek safety and a more stable life, many have now lost their jobs, their savings, and risk eviction from their accommodation. Working in the informal sector, they have no safety net, and some have decided they have no choice but to go back home, despite the exposure to health risks and the persisting level of danger.

María Lago* is a Venezuelan grandmother living in Medellin, Colombia, with her family. Confinement has left her family with no income, so UNHCR has intervened to support them with cash assistance to cover urgent needs. ©UNHCR/Angela Hurtado

UNHCR has been assisting Venezuelan refugees and migrants in the neighbouring countries since 2014 and its staff has stayed and delivered vital assistance during the pandemic. Together with partners, UNHCR is working to protect and help the many displaced Venezuelans, including by ensuring safe reception conditions, providing shelters and supporting registration. This is possible thanks to donors like Norway, who recently contributed additional funding of NOK 15 million (USD 1.58 million) to support displaced Venezuelans.

With the generous support from Norway, UNHCR can provide assistance to meet the basic needs of Venezuelans who have fled their homes. Exacerbated hardship and economic consequences of COVID-19 makes this even more important,” says UNHCR Representative in Northern Europe Henrik M. Nordentoft.

The funding from Norway ensures that UNHCR can provide direct cash assistance to the most vulnerable among the Venezuelan refugees and asylum-seekers, in particular families with small children or disabled or elderly members, as well as those at risk of being evicted or on the brink of malnutrition. Cash-based interventions empower refugees, allowing them to access their most important needs and thus better provide for their families.

The support has made a huge difference to Maria and her family in these troubled times. She can now buy essential items for her grandchildren and she is able to ensure that every member of the family is now having three nutritious meals a day.

“It was for my family that I crossed the border, and it is for my family that I will find a way to work. I firmly believe we will come out of the quarantine stronger,” Maria said.


Norway’s support to UNHCR 

Norway’s funding of USD 1.58 million to the Venezuela refugee crisis response comes on top of another contribution of USD 666,473 to the Venezuela situation earlier this year. In 2019, Norway provided UNHCR with almost USD 2 million for the Venezuela situation.

Norway has long been a strong and consistent donor to UNHCR and is the largest donor when seen per capita. In 2019, Norway was ranked as UNHCR’s seventh overall biggest donor with a total contribution of USD 94 million, of which about 50 per cent was provided as flexible funding to be directed by UNHCR to operations with high priority needs.