This summer, Venezuela’s Apure State was hit with the worst flooding it had seen in two decades. An official state of emergency was declared after two weeks of heavy rain drove people from their homes and left many without food, water or electricity.
HIAS has long had a presence in Apure State. Our office is in Guasdualito, a small city near the border with Colombia. Staff there work with refugees on a daily basis, providing psychosocial assistance to help refugees cope with the traumas they have experienced, as well as legal assistance and other services. But the extensive flooding gave rise to new needs, and HIAS staff was quick to respond, despite extensive flood damage to our offices there.
HIAS worked with UNHCR–Guasdualito to deliver the supplies most needed in the community: hammocks, mosquito nets, blankets, personal hygiene items, medications and clothing. Kits containing these and other items were delivered to 45 local refugee families. In total, more than 130 people were helped.
The flooding also resulted in the spread of diseases, mainly affecting children. So the HIAS team in Guasdualito coordinated a pediatric assistance day, where specialized care was provided to 54 children and adolescents in refugee situations. HIAS also assisted with the delivery of specialized medications for each case, based on the diagnostic report and recommendations of the specialist. At least three children were diagnosed with chronic respiratory disease, requiring prolonged treatment and medical follow-up. These children will receive new specialized attention and follow-up in November.
“The mothers kept telling us how thankful they were,” a HIAS staffer said. “They were really grateful that their children were able to receive high quality care, and that they were not discriminated against for being refugees.”
The pediatric assistance day allowed HIAS to respond to a clear need in the community, as well as to continue its focus on promoting the human rights of refugees, especially children. Pediatrician Rosario Araujo, who treated more than 50 children during the event, led a training for refugee parents on the importance of nutrition in childhood.
While HIAS’ initial response had a positive impact on the lives of local families who were able to access emergency supplies and pediatric medical care, more work remains to be done. Many refugees in Guasdualito lost their livelihoods, their belongings and even their homes. HIAS will continue its efforts to help refugees get back on their feet following the devastating floods, including livelihood support to help families return to work.
With time, and a little help, these resilient families who have survived both flight and flood will fully recover from the summer’s floods and return to the work of rebuilding lives in a new country.