05 May 2020 Citizen reporters highlight plight of Venezuelan migrants in Colombia
WACC is surveying its community media partners on their response to COVID-19 and their needs to help keep the communities they serve informed and safe. Community media need your help! Please donate to the Community Media Rapid Response Fund.
A network of Colombian and Venezuelan citizen reporters has launched a Covid-19 prevention campaign targeted at migrants and host communities in Colombia which, like most countries, is grappling with the spread of the contagious disease.
Concerns have been raised by Colombian officials that if ongoing transmission of Covid-19 escalates it could overwhelm the country’s health system. About 200 people in Colombia have died and 4,000 others infected by the novel coronavirus as of April 20.
Venezuelan migrants, who have limited resources to protect themselves, will be most vulnerable to the health and economic impacts of Covid-19, said the network.
“COVID-19 does not discriminate between migrants and locals. It affects everyone,” said the network in a project summary. “Therefore, it’s better to work together to tackle the consequences of the pandemic instead of blaming migrants for the spread of the virus.” The network is part of the migration and communication rights work of WACC Global in Colombia, implemented locally by Fundación Comunicación Positiva and Grupo Comunicarte with the financial support of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Venezuelan migrants, who began arriving in Colombia in September 2018 to escape their country’s economic and political turmoil, number about 1.6 million, or about 3.4% of Colombia’s total population.
There have been media reports that some Venezuelan migrants who rely on the informal economy for a living have decided to go back to Venezuela after the Colombian government enforced a lockdown to prevent the spread of the disease.
At the same time, however, there have also been reports of a new wave of arrivals among Venezuelans who are worried about the absence of healthcare in their country. “In Cúcuta, a city on the Colombian side of the border, as many as 40,000 Venezuelans arrived daily until March 14, when Colombia closed its borders in a bid to stem the spread of COVID-19,” according to the medical Journal, The Lancet.
In a series of radio spots, the network urged Colombians to also consider the plight of migrants in their midst. One campaign featured the following message: “Imagine you are in a foreign country, have limited resources, and have to worry about your health? This is what our Venezuelan brothers and sisters are experiencing. Let’s stand together as one against discrimination and against COVID-19.”
Another message asked Colombians and Venezuelan migrants to “practice social distancing with social solidarity.” Social distancing, the message said, “does not mean that we should not give a hand to those in need.” — by Marites Sison
Photo above: Poster depicts Covid-19 prevention campaign for migrants and host communities in Colombia.