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Venezuelan Migrants Look Beyond Colombia For Refuge

Associated Press
In this Feb. 23, 2018 photo, a volunteer at the "Divina Providencia" migrant shelter distributes lunch to Venezuelan migrants, in Cucuta, Colombia. The food is cooked in several large vats and the diocese says it offers an average of 1000 meals a day.

About two million Venezuelans are fleeing the economic and political crisis in their country and seeking refuge in neighboring countries, including Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

READ MORE: Escape from Venezuela.

“There’s no end in sight,” says Nancy Izzo Jackson, a deputy assistant secretary with the U.S. State Department. “This is the largest external displacement in the region. Expectations are that the number of Venezuelans who will have left their country by the end of the year could reach three million people.”

During a conference call with reporters Monday, Jackson addressed the humanitarian crisis and its impact on the region.

After Colombia, Peru is hosting the second largest number of migrants – 350,000 people – and that number is expected to increase to one million by the end of the year. Ecuador has about 100,000 Venezuelans, many of whom are trying to arrive to Peru.

Jackson says the “massive outflow” of people is straining governments. The U.S. is thus helping bolster the UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration – both of which have offices in Ecuador and Peru.

The U.S. has also provided nearly $31 million in humanitarian aid, for essentials like food, shelter and water.

Jackson says the situation is so dire for some Venezuelans that they’re trying to make money from their own currency, the bolivar.

“Their currency is so worthless, they have started making origami figures and bracelets, and they are handing them out to people, asking for 5 cents? 10 cents?” she says. “We had a situation where people are actually trying to monetize money.”

The State Department says it’s encouraging countries in the region to collaborate and better manage the humanitarian crisis.