Still tension on the border between Colombia and Venezuela, the latter country affected by an economic, political but above all humanitarian crisis, defined by experts as one of the worst ever seen in the last 200 years. The latest front of tension, which opened on the border on March 21, is in La Victoria (state of Apure, Venezuela), the scene of armed clashes between the Venezuelan military forces of the FANB (Bolivarian National Air Force) and the Colombian dissident armed groups of the FARC. The clashes have generated a massive displacement of people seeking refuge and protection from Venezuela to Colombia. And still thousands are stuck between the two lines of fire.

According to the first data – partial – it is about 4,700 to date, but the number is constantly growing. Among them, there are about 1700 children and adolescents and 136 pregnant women. The number of civilians remaining in the areas of military operations is not known but the latest census data suggests that 5,000 people remained in those areas. Humanitarian access to La Victoria is not yet guaranteed. “The fighting is still ongoing,” he explains Courier serviceSimona Canova, head of mission of Intersos, an NGO that for two years, thanks to the collaboration with the CISP, has been working in the department of Arauca and in the state of Apure to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants and displaced persons in transit in the area. “We made an initial assessment of urgent needs: medicines and access to health services, access to water and sanitation are the priorities at this time among the displaced people who are in the various informal settlements that have been created mainly in the urban area of ​​Rivera” .

To aggravate the situation beyond the risks of hydrogeological instability that the region presents (there is also Covid-19: the presence of 4 positive people has already been ascertained and “there is concern – the operators report – of a further increase in infections given the poor protection measures and the scarce possibility of carrying out mass tests. “In addition, the health facilities are not prepared to face any epidemiological emergency associated with similar situations.” The military operation that began 10 days ago is unfortunately continuing in the La Victoria, the city opposite Arauquita, across the Arauca River which marks the border between the two countries. The fighting is still ongoing, the Colombian Navy has sent a first contingent to the city of Arauca. The Colombian municipality of Arauquita has informed the national government that it does not have the capacity to cope with an emergency of this magnitude ”, explains Canova. “Furthermore, as the clashes are still ongoing, new movements could occur in the coming days and more people are expected to arrive in Arauquita, Saravena and other neighboring municipalities. The humanitarian response is made complicated by the remote and very dispersed position of many of the places where the new arrivals are concentrating ».

«River transport at the Las Canoas border crossing between Arauquita and La Victoria, then between Colombia and Venezuela, has been suspended until further notice; the official passage closest to La Victoria, the José Antonio Páez International Bridge, is located 100 km from the municipality », continues Canova. “For this reason, the vast majority of people cross the border with Colombia via multiple identified informal passages across the Arauca River and other smaller tributaries. There are reports of people moving around at night to avoid checks, perhaps due to the greater ease of crossing the river by canoe, despite the physical risks it entails“. “The effects of the military operation on the civilian population and the participation of the Venezuelan military forces represent a further phase of the crisis on the Colombia-Venezuela border, in which the presence of dissidents in Venezuelan territory is increasingly evident, with the ability to maintain the territorial control to compete for income from illegal activities such as drug trafficking, illicit crops and human trafficking and to resist a constant offensive, ”says Marcelo Garcia Dalla Costa, head of the Intersos Emergency Unit. «The Venezuelan crisis is ignored by most of the media – underlines Garcia Dalla Costa – although in the last three years it has produced a number of refugees – about 5 million – equal to the number of Syrian refugees in ten years of conflict. These days is the biggest exodus from Venezuela since the beginning of the year and the numbers are unfortunately destined to grow ».

April 2, 2021 (change April 2, 2021 | 17:28)

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