Tuesday 25 June 2019

Four million flee crisis in Venezuela as children's deaths soar

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido. Photo: AFP/Getty
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido. Photo: AFP/Getty

Stephanie Nebehay

Four million Venezuelan refugees and migrants have fled the economic and humanitarian crisis in their homeland, all but 700,000 of them since the end of 2015, UN aid agencies have reported.

The Opec member's imploding economy has brought widespread shortages of basic foods and medicines, while political hostilities have led to waves of fatal violence.

The crisis has deepened since the United States imposed sanctions, including on the pivotal oil industry, in an effort to oust President Nicolás Maduro in favour of opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

"The pace of the outflow from Venezuela has been staggering," the refugee agency UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said in a joint statement.

The previous UN count was 3.7 million and the "alarming" new figure highlights the urgent need to support host countries, mainly in Latin America - led by Colombia with 1.3 million and followed by Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina, it said.

Peru's President Martín Vizcarra vowed to continue deporting Venezuelans with criminal records as long as necessary, in a toughening stance toward the migrants.

Some 3.2 million children in Venezuela - one in three - need humanitarian assistance, Unicef said yesterday.

Mortality rates among under five-year-olds doubled from 14 per 1,000 live births in 2010/2011 to 31 per 1,000 live births in 2017.

Some 190 suspected cases of diphtheria and 558 suspected cases of measles have been recorded this year.

Dozens of nations around the world now recognise Mr Guaidó as interim president, saying Mr Maduro rigged a 2018 election and is behaving like a dictator.

Irish Independent

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