UNICEF: 327,000 Venezuelan children in Colombia need help

UNICEF: $23.3M needed to meet Venezuelan children's basic needs

Thousands of children cross the Venezuela-Colombia border daily to get to schools in Cucuta, Colombia. Photo by Santiago Arcos © UNICEF

CUCUTA, Colombia – The United Nations Children's Fund reported Monday that there are at least 327,000 Venezuelan children migrants living in Colombian communities that are already overstretched. 

Paloma Escudero, a spokeswoman for UNICEF, said more than 130,000 Venezuelan children are enrolled in schools across Colombia. Schools in the Colombian border city of Cucuta have 10,000 Venezuelan students and estimate that close to 3,000 commute daily from Venezuela.

"I saw hundreds of students cross into Cúcuta at the crack of dawn, in pouring rain, to go to school," Escudero said. 

UNICEF needs $29 million to support the children's basic needs, but the agency has only received $5.7 million, Escudero said. The fund gets support from governments' contributions, nongovernmental organizations, foundations, corporations and individuals.

UNICEF aims to support mobile health teams, access to safe water and sanitation, nutritional support, school supplies, training for teachers and child-friendly spaces for psychosocial support.

Escudero also said there are Venezuelan mothers and children who travel for hours to UNICEF-supported health care centers in Colombia to get prenatal check-ups, have their children immunized or seek medical treatment .

"I met a mother who has epilepsy and is eight months pregnant. She needed to come to Colombia to get her prenatal checkups and protect her health and the health of her baby," Escudero said. "For most families, the decision to leave is only a measure of last resort."

UNICEF is working with Colombian authorities and humanitarian agencies in Colombia to help make sure that Venezuelan children have access to health, nutrition, education and protection. Escudero fears the growing anti-migrant sentiment makes the Venezuelan children more vulnerable.

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