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UNHCR's Cash-Based Interventions in Colombia

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Cash-based interventions (CBI) are a cost-effective assistance modality used by UNHCR to improve access to basic needs and reduce protection risks.

CBI provide a greater degree of choice, dignity, and empowerment to beneficiaries, enabling local and economic integration to the benefit of people of concern and host communities.

Colombia is home to the largest number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants in the world, displaced by the socioeconomic and political crisis in their homeland. Nearly 82% resort to negative coping strategies to satisfy basic needs.


Refugees and migrants from Venezuela

  • 5.6 million people globally
  • 4.6 million in Latin America and the Caribbean
  • 1.74 million in Colombia, including over 983,000 that lack regular status
  • 71,900 individuals (19,500 households) benefitted from cash- based interventions in 2020
  • 18,980 individuals (5,493 households) benefitted from cash- based interventions in the first semester of 2021
  • 85% of the cash-based assistance includes multi-purpose cash


  • By the end of 2020, there were over 1.74 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants living in Colombia. Around 120,000 returned home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but with the reduction of restrictions, many have started to return to Colombia. In fact, hundreds are already entering daily via informal crossing points, while the border remains closed from Venezuela side.
  • The most likely planning scenario for 2021 and 2022 is one of increasing arrivals with heightened vulnerability. Colombia’s migration authority (Migración Colombia) estimates 80% of those who returned home during the pandemic will re-enter Colombia, accompanied by one or more persons. Even more so in the context of the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) that the Government of Colombia will grant to Venezuelans who will apply for it in the country. This offers unique opportunities for integration, including access to education, health services, skill trainings, and formal employment.
  • In this context, cash-based interventions (CBI) play a catalytic role in improving the living conditions of Venezuelan refugees and migrants and host communities. According to the Joint Needs Assessment that UNHCR implemented with 19 partner organizations in June 2021, the three main needs reported by Venezuelan households are access to food (85%), housing or shelter (68%), and employment or sources of income (44%). As a fourth priority, people surveyed indicated the need for medical assistance (29%).
  • To fulfill basic needs, 82% of households reported being engaged in negative coping mechanisms. 44% reported reliance on begging or accepting jobs that pose a risk to their integrity, health, safety, or life. 65% of households went into debt at the time of data collection, while 52% of the interviewed had gone into debt to pay their rent. According to findings of the assessment, households that reported prioritizing food and housing as their main needs confirmed they preferred CBI as a response modality.