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EU pledges aid to Venezuelan refugees impacted by coronavirus pandemic

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An elderly man, waits to receive a free meal at a church in The Cemetery neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, May 22, 2020.
An elderly man, waits to receive a free meal at a church in The Cemetery neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, May 22, 2020.   -   Copyright  Ariana Cubillos/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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The coronavirus pandemic has made a crisis within a crisis for Venezuela's refugees.

As Latin America is now the new epicentre for infections, those who were forced to flee face new challenges.

"In countries in lockdown, and most of them are in lockdown, people who depend on daily wages or the informal economy loose jobs very quickly, and unfortunately 80 per cent of the Venezuelans depend on this kind of jobs. So they are profoundly affected by this economic impact. And very often also the communities hosting them are frequently poor and are affected in the same way," explains Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Humanitarian aid is now critical to helping migrants and refugees in the region. The EU and Spain co-organised an international donor conference to raise awareness and money for Venezuelan refugees.

The UNHCR welcomed the 2.5 billion euros raised on Tuesday. The EU itself has pledged 144 million euros, The European Investment Bank is also extending 400 million euros in loans.

To date more than five million Venezuelans have left the country since 2015 and the vast majority stayed in the neighbouring region.

The social services of the host countries are reaching the limit. In Colombia alone there are 1.7 million Venezuelans.

"The health sector is one of those with the most needs and precisely with the pressure of the Venezuelan flux we have reached a deficit of 257 million dollars... Not counting education expenses," Ambassador of Colombia to the European Union, Felipe Garcia Echeverri told Euronews.

Health, education and food are the sectors most in need of funding, and with the coronavirus crisis, those are the sectors most affected in countries with already fragile economies.