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UN Turning To Private Donors To Help Fill Aid Gap For Venezuelan Refugees

Tim Padgett
A Venezuelan refugee mother and her infant son waiting for U.N. food stamp vouchers in Cucuta, Colombia, last week.

The Venezuelan refugee crisis is only worsening - and international aid raised so far to help hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans pouring into countries like Colombia is falling well short. As a result, the U.N. and other aid  groups are looking for new sources of funding.

CUCUTA, COLOMBIA - Each day tens of thousands of Venezuelans arrive in the Colombian border city of Cúcuta. As many as a quarter of them stay there. They’re fleeing an economic catastrophe that’s left millions in socialist Venezuela with almost no food or medicine.

Last month, the U.N.’s refugee agency called on international donor countries to provide almost $50 million for the Venezuelan refugees. Only about a third of it has been raised so far.

“We need more resources, definitely," Jozef Merkx, Colombia representative for the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), told WLRN in Bogotá. "So we need different sources of funding.”

Meaning, he says, the agency will launch an unusual campaign this summer for private donors to help fill the gap.

“We would like to see more involvement of the private sector," Merkx said, "so people can contribute on websites.” (The U.N. plans to announce the website soon.)

In fact, because of the aid shortfall, churches and other private groups in Cúcuta are mobilizing to barnstorm the U.S. with their own fund drives.

Credit Tim Padgett / WLRN.org
Pastor Jose Torres at his church in Cucuta with bags of donated clothes for Venezuelan refugees.

"Most of the Venezuelans are arriving here with nothing," says José Torres, pastor of the Centro Bíblico evangelical church, which has aided and given shelter to hundreds of Venezuelan refugees.

“And we don’t have enough resources to adequately help them.”

So Torres says he will tour U.S. cities this summer – including Miami – to urge congregations here to help the ever-growing number of suffering Venezuelans.