The United Nations on Thursday made a call for US$1.79 billion to help an ever-larger wave of Venezuelan migrants and their host countries in Latin America.
The money was needed to provide health, shelter, food, water, and sanitation for Venezuelan migrants, who now number over six million, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR refugee agency said in a joint statement.
Most are in countries in Latin America and the Caribbean – mainly in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Brazil. Many have been displaced for years.
"As this situation prolongs over time, the vulnerabilities and risks that Venezuelans face, as well as the needs of their host communities, have dramatically increased," said the statement.
In the grips of hyperinflation, Venezuela is in an unprecedented political and economic crisis that has led millions of people to leave in search of a better future elsewhere.
Venezuelan migration is "the biggest human exodus in the history of Latin America," Eduardo Stein, the IOM and UNHCR representative for Venezuelan migrants, told AFP.
He said the Covid-19 pandemic has considerably worsened the situation, and by the end of 2022, there could be as many as 7.1 million Venezuelans scattered around the world, some 6.2 of them in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The statement said the pandemic has worsened the living conditions of the most vulnerable people – locals and migrants alike – in a region facing growing unemployment and poverty.
Many migrants see no option but to keep moving in search of better conditions, and to avoid arrest.
"With land borders largely closed... in an effort to contain the spread of Covid-19, Venezuelans have resorted to using informal routes – often on foot – exposing themselves to grave dangers, such as extreme climate conditions, natural hazards, threats from human traffickers or exploitation and abuse by smugglers," said the statement.