Group workshops are an important part of Action Against Hunger's psychosocial support programs for Venezuelan migrants in Colombia.

Colombia: Providing mental health support to Venezuelan migrants

More than 4 million people have fled the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. Nearly 1.5 million of these individuals are now living in Colombia.

Migration takes an immense toll – physically, mentally, and emotionally - on those who have been forced to flee their home country. As families and as individuals, they left homes and loved ones and crossed a border. Now, they live in the street or in very precarious conditions in a foreign country. Many do not have access to social services or basic items they need to survive. They often face isolation, discrimination, hostility, and fear within their new communities.

In the Colombian capital of Bogotá, where 355,000 Venezuelans are concentrated, Action Against Hunger provides psychosocial care to help migrants cope with their journey and new lives. These humanitarian assistance programs are designed to address both physical and psychological needs.

“In group workshops, we work to help people generate their own positive coping strategies, according to their abilities and skills, to enable them to reduce vulnerability,” explains Jader Esteban, an Action Against Hunger psychologist in Colombia. These types of interventions, developed in coordination with Colombian institutions, focus on helping migrants adapt to their new context, which facilitates social and cultural cohesion.

Diana Carolina Torres, who participated in psychosocial care workshops in Bogotá, does not hide her feelings when talking about the program: “I arrived with many problems, I was going through a very difficult situation and Action Against Hunger gave me guidance, affection, and cared for me with a friendly hand.” For this Venezuelan woman, the experience has been unforgettable and, today, she affirms that: “I feel renewed, with very high self-esteem and knowing that I am a woman and I have worth. They gave me the tools to get ahead and overcome the situation I was in.”

Migration patterns impact the local populations, too. Preventing and reducing discrimination, fear, and hostility toward migrants is crucial for integration and for ensuring that all people can build a decent life. To cope with the negative effects of migration, the Government of Colombia has established programs to encourage inclusion. Still, many migrants are undocumented, hindering inclusion efforts and limiting recognition of their basic human rights, including access to goods, services, and formal employment.

Many children and adolescents are living on the streets and pregnant women are often left unprotected without access to the public health system. Our teams are working in vulnerable communities to raise awareness about sexual and reproductive health issues, as well as providing advice, access, and referrals to contraceptive methods. We have also established safe shelters for children and families affected by gender-based violence.

Action Against Hunger is also providing health and nutrition care focused on children under five years old, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers. We are promoting healthy hygiene habits and providing a variety of hygiene and dignity kits for people of all ages.

Our work in Colombia offers a holistic response to the needs of migrants and local populations and was developed in coordination with the Colombian national authorities, partner organizations, and aid agencies. Together, we are using a common strategy that focuses on urgent assistance as well as longer term projects that enable migrants to find greater stability in their new communities.

Action Against Hunger is the world’s hunger specialist and leader in a global movement that aims to end life-threatening hunger for good within our lifetimes. For 40 years, the humanitarian and development organization has been on the front lines, treating and preventing hunger across nearly 50 countries. It served more than 21 million people in 2018 alone.