ICRC President visit Venezuela to expand humanitarian effort

COTABATO CITY - The President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has completed a five-day visit to Venezuela as the organization looks to ramp up its humanitarian effort in the country.

A news release by the ICRC said that it has tripled its budget for operations in Venezuela from about $9 million to about $24.6 million. The financial boost will see the ICRC expand its work on four pressing humanitarian issues: migration, health, water and sanitation, and detention. 

Recently, the ICRC signed an agreement with the Ministry of Health to provide Venezuelans with emergency health care. Twenty-eight hospitals and eight primary health centres in Venezuela will benefit from training, water and sanitation and medical materials supplied by the ICRC. 

During this week’s visit, ICRC President Peter Maurer met with President Nicolas Maduro, government ministry officials and members of the legislature to discuss how the ICRC can strengthen cooperation and respond to the needs of Venezuelans while working within the principles of the Red Cross Movement. This is the first visit to Venezuela by an ICRC President in 24 years.  

“During my visit I talked to many Venezuelans and I saw how they’re facing daily challenges due to the deterioration of fragile basic services, including access to health care,” Mr Maurer said. “Hospitals are having difficulties ensuring they have water, electricity, medicine and enough health staff on site. Our cooperation with and support to the public institutions will be crucial to reverse this trend.”

During his visit Mr. Maurer traveled to Táchira, on the border with Colombia, and to Bolivar, on the border with Brazil. He talked with community members, migrants, people affected by armed violence, medical personnel and patients at three hospitals. 

In addition to its efforts in the health field and assistance to migrants, the ICRC has also visited some 2,500 detainees since the beginning of 2019 and helped hundreds of them get in touch with their families through family contact services.  

“Through my visit I wish to confirm and express ICRC´s readiness to scale up our activities in support of the Venezuelan people. I am satisfied with the willingness of the authorities to work with us to address the humanitarian needs we have identified in a consensual way,” said Mr Maurer. 

Of particular concern for the ICRC is the high levels of armed violence affecting vulnerable people and hampering their access to basic services. The organization is supporting affected communities with first aid.  

Many people are leaving the country in search of a better life. Since the beginning of the year, the ICRC with the Venezuelan Red Cross has helped more than 6.000 migrants reconnect with their families through phone calls.  

“I came to Venezuela to listen to people, understand their needs and make sure our response is relevant to them,” Mr. Maurer said. “More will be done in the coming weeks and months. It’s not only about this snapshot in time or the assistance we can deliver. It´s about helping Venezuelans move forward with their lives in a sustainable way.”  

The ICRC has been present in Venezuela since 1966, working in support of the Venezuelan people by providing neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian assistance.