The issues between the two countries are highly politically charged and the grist to a propaganda mill. What’s missing in the narrative is the impact on people’s lives.
Over the years, inflation, poverty levels, and unemployment rates sent Venezuelans fleeing over the border to Colombia. As conditions worsened, the trickle grew into a river of thousands. With the dispute over a legitimate presidency turning into an outright power struggle, that river became a flood of millions.
A staggering exodus
As it is with any country that sees a sudden influx of thousands of refugees or migrants, the economic infrastructure of the host country isn’t usually prepared. That’s the scenario in Colombia, specifically in the border city of Cucuta, where Compassion International works.
Carlos Alvarez is senior manager of program support for Compassion International in Colombia. He explains, “We’ve been partnering with local churches, frontline churches, for the last eight years. We have learned how the situation has worsened over the last two years as people are coming in from Venezuela. For the recent event, the government tried to send humanitarian aid into Venezuela, and the border situation has worsened a lot.”
On February 23rd, violence broke out when the Venezuelan military blocked a delivery of food and medicine. Alvarez says, “The U-S government sent humanitarian (aid)[sic]. Food trucks were moving into the Venezuelan border with Cucuta, specifically. (They)[sic] tried to pass the bridge to Venezuela, but then Venezuela started to close the border, because they’re not accepting humanitarian (aid) [sic] for political reasons.”
Anti-government protests clashed with the National Guard. When the smoke cleared, hundreds of people were injured, and four lost their lives.
Meanwhile, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro severed diplomatic ties with Colombia and this week, authorities blockaded a second bridge to Colombia. Unrest didn’t stay at the border, and the effect of it on the region now directly impacts Compassion International, notes Alvarez. “746 beneficiaries have been affected because of the lack of food and lack of attention, especially in the public hospitals.“
Compassion staff in Colombia is assisting children, families and church partners, too.
“We are initially responding through disaster response alternatives, trying to get them food and basic supplies in Cucuta. The situation in Cucuta, as a border territory is in a continued crisis, including poverty, lack of services, lack of medical attention and lack of food and medicine.”
In spite of limited supplies, frontline churches are also responding in the name of Christ.
“Every day, families are knocking on their doors for them to provide some help, because they cannot find any other help. Of course, this affects our current program in terms of [sic] you can’t decide whether or not to help, because you always want to help.”
He goes on to say that church members are hosting Venezuelan families because they have no place to go. The strain is noticeable, but the Compassion staff is doing what they can to support.
As this situation continues to unfold, with yet another showdown expected, they ask you to pray for children and families affected by the situation in both countries. Please pray for:
- Children and family members who have been injured or displaced
- Restoration of property and goods, as well as the return of peace to the area
- Local church and Compassion staff as they reach out to help as many people as possible
Headline image courtesy Twitter Trends 2019/Flickr/CC