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Venezuela migration crisis in Colombia

Families are fleeing to survive

Hyperinflation and shortages caused by a political crisis have led four million Venezuelans to leave their country in the last few years. 1.3 million of them are in Colombia. Since the Venezuelan authorities re-opened the borders at the beginning of June, thousands of people have been migrating into Colombia every day. It is the world’s second largest migration flow after Syria.

Some cross the border to return with urgently needed food and medicines, others want to settle in the border area in Colombia. Many families travel through Colombia to reach another city or country.


I only have two T-shirts, two pairs of trousers and the clothes my baby is wearing. Everything else that I took over the border was stolen.” 

After having crossed the border, Maria Alejandra* and her one-year-old daughter still have fifty hours of walking ahead of them to reach Bucaramanga, the next stop before heading to Peru. The exhausted little Fiora* puts her head on her mother’s shoulder.

I decided to leave the country when my sister, who has four children, knocked on my door to ask for some rice and I didn’t even have enough to feed my own child,” says Maria Alejandra 

One of the few organisations to help on the road


The migrating families are deprived of basic needs such as food or warm clothes. They arrive unaware of how cold it is to sleep outdoors at night with young children and their strength has been broken by the difficulties they have encountered in finding a shelter and at least one meal a day.

Terre des hommes (Tdh) was one of the first and still is one of the few NGOs to provide emergency aid along the road that connects the border city Cucuta with the transit city Bucaramanga.

12 people

a day get individual help on the road

149 people

a day follow our information sessions

886 products

distributed to people in need


There are about 40 people who have just arrived at this shelter where food is being offered and a place to sleep at night.

Our social workers identify the most vulnerable cases to provide them with lifesaving aid: information sessions about risks on the road and legal help is provided; food vouchers, warm clothes and blankets, hygiene articles and baby products are distributed. We also coordinate with shelters to find a place to sleep for the families most in need. 


Many families have no official documents, making it impossible for them to travel on public transport. To reach another city or country all they can do is walk.

Around 500 people can be observed every day on the 206 km road from the border city Cucuta to the transit city Bucaramanga, walking through the hills along narrow, winding streets. When we talk about ‘caminantes’ – walkers, we talk about families in street situations with all the associated vulnerabilities.


More and more people from Venezuela were arriving in our town. It got very cold and I couldn’t believe there were women with children sleeping in the street. I moved out the furniture of my house to make space for anyone who needed a place to sleep. Here, we have the opportunity to save children’s lives!

Martha, a Colombian woman with a big heart, hosts hundreds of migrating mothers and children and hands out 500 lunches a day.


A lot of migrating families settle near the border. There, Tdh focuses on helping them to get documentation, the key to access basic services.

These people have no access to work and lack basic needs, such as a roof over their heads, education and healthcare. It’s all about documentation; when they have a passport or a permit, they get access these rights.

Recently, Colombia has given out 24,000 passports to Venezuelan children born in Colombia. This gives them access to health services and education and protects them from statelessness.


Every time I went to the doctor when my daughter was ill, the security officers turned us away as she didn’t have Colombian nationality. Tdh's lawyer helped us a lot. Now we have a room, health insurance and we can go to the doctor. Also, our daughter can keep her place at school.” 

Rocio smiles full of gratitude. With the help of Tdh, she got passports for her children.

© Copyright 2019 Terre des hommes - All rights reserved.
*Names changed for protection reasons
Photos credits : ©Tdh/Sebastian Delgado
Video credits : ©Tdh/Jonatan Bermúdez Pascuas