Caribbean R4V countries continued to cope with negative impacts brought on by COVID-19, which added to already existing vulnerabilities, and resulted in exacerbated needs in shelter, food, sanitation, medical supplies and cash to meet basic needs. In August, R4V partners focused on strengthening gender-based violence prevention and response programmes in order to minimize vulnerabilities related to gender-based violence (GBV), and Venezuelans resorting to survival sex, use of narcotics and other illegal activities as coping strategies. This was mitigated through the wide provision of CBI and protection interventions. Requests for returns due to hardships, saw 600 Venezuelans register from June to August through the DIMAS website in Aruba, and 168 in the Dominican Republic who continued awaiting permission from the Venezuelan authorities for return. Amidst this, the Caribbean Sub-Regional Platform concluded the RMRP 2021 planning workshops across the Caribbean, where RMRP partners, UN agencies, NGOs, community-based and civil society organizations and government representatives participated in fruitful discussions, to calculate the PIN/Population figures, narrative submissions and priorities for 2021.
Sub-regional countries were hard hit by a second wave of COVID-19. Aruba moved from 121 to 2006 cases, and Curaçao declared itself COVID free at the start of August, yet, saw a surge to 68, cluster infections. Trinidad and Tobago saw a 84 % increase in active cases and the Dominican Republic reported fewer active infections noted in August than in July. Owing to recent rapid increases in infection numbers, the Dutch government announced its plan to recruit additional international medical personnel for Curaçao and Aruba to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
In Aruba, school re-openings were postponed due to COVID-19 spikes and limited access to resources for virtual learning while a curfew was reinstated on August 26. Aruba re-opened borders with the United States of America. Further, on August 22, Coastguard Aruba detained a boat with 14 undocumented Venezuelans, who were taken to detention centers. It is the first reported arrival since February. Conversely, the Government of Aruba remains committed to facilitating the return of Venezuelans pending Venezuelan authorities' consent. They are currently being held at the ‘Guarda nos Costa’ detention center. Venezuelan refugees and migrants risk contracting COVID-19 in Aruba detention centres due to unhygienic and inadequate facilities. Conversely, the Government of Aruba remains committed to facilitating the return of Venezuelans pending Venezuelan authorities' consent.
In the midst of stagnated tourism due to COVID-19, the Curaçao Tourist Board (CTB) reported that 9,227 stayover visitors travelled to Curaçao in August with increased visitors staying in resort hotels. This is a promising step towards improved economy and increased livelihood opportunities for the host community and Venezuelan refugees and migrants on the island. Conversely, the Dutch government was unable to finalize subsequent funding to continue providing food and NFIs to vulnerable individuals through the agency leading the response in Curaçao, to vulnerable individuals. Other R4V partners continued distributing e-vouchers to Venezuelans not reached by this aid, mainly to single-headed households, as underscored by recent trends.
Following Presidential elections, new government authorities took office in the Dominican Republic on 16 August. The new administration represents a window of opportunity to strengthen advocacy for integration and durable solutions for Venezuelans.
In Guyana, a new government took office and the new Prime Minister was sworn in on the 2 August. The Minister of Health issued renewed emergency and restrictive orders while mining resumed with guidelines in place. In Trinidad and Tobago, general elections were held on 10 August and concluded with the reelection of the previous Government. Nationwide restrictions were renewed and claims that Venezuelans were spreading COVID-19 “fueled a climate of fear and pushed (Venezuelans) further underground and away from health services”, increasing xenophobic tensions. Separately, requests for overall assistance remained high, resulting in backlogs for registration and interview appointments with R4V agencies, and 78 percent of Venezuelans who applied for R4V assistance in August indicated that either they or other household members were forced to reduce the quantity and quantity of their food intake due to reduced income.