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Humanitarian assistance to Venezuelan Migrants in Colombia - Field experience summary: WASH, Bogotá

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1. Context Overview

Since 2015, more than five million refugees and migrants have fled Venezuela due to political and economic instability and the humanitarian crisis in the country. Most live in Colombia, often without documents and in precarious conditions. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Colombia since March, the country has implemented far-reaching lockdown measures and closed its borders. This has exacerbated the difficulties many Venezuelan refugees and migrants experience and led to increased vulnerability and need for humanitarian support. Abba Colombia is a Colombian charitable foundation active at the national and international level that runs humanitarian, social and entrepreneurial projects, including to support Venezuelan migrants in need.
Colombia has been heavily affected by COVID-19, with over 387,000 confirmed cases and 12,842 deaths as of August 10, 2020.

2. Description of intervention and rationale for adaptation / innovation

In response to COVID-19, Abba Colombia together with other agencies and governmental authorities (the Department for Migration and the National Police) has developed a first-aid WASH intervention targeted at Venezuelan refugees and migrants waiting at the closed bus terminal in the north of Bogotá. The uncertainty of COVID-19 has increased the risks and difficulties of remaining in Colombia, so many Venezuelans are seeking to return home despite ongoing political and economic difficulties in their country of origin. Increased pressure on migrant shelters in Bogotá has led to Venezuelans congregating at the closed bus terminal, waiting to be able to return to their country. There are around 200 families at the terminal at any one time. Migrants arrive at the terminal from various locations across Colombia, to reunite with family before attempting to return to Venezuela if the authorities allow. Recently, around 200 Venezuelan families were able to travel from the terminal to the borders at Cauca and Cucuta, but were unable to cross and await entry into Venezuela. However, as more people continue to arrive at the bus shelter, the situation remains crowded and uncertain.
The conditions under which Venezuelans stay at the bus terminal are highly precarious. In particular, one male bathroom and one female bathroom is shared by hundreds of families, leading to long queues, and inadequate access to basic hygiene and infectious disease control needs.
To provide immediate relief, Abba Colombia started to provide WASH support in the form of sanitary kits tailored to different groups: children/babies, mothers and pregnant women, women, and men and youth. After noticing significant COVID-19 risk communication and psychosocial support needs among the population, Abba also incorporated awareness raising and MHPSS into their WASH distribution activities.