U.N. aid chief says 'very real humanitarian problem' in Venezuela

by Reuters
Wednesday, 10 April 2019 15:07 GMT

Colombian riot police block the way to the Colombian side in the Colombian-Venezuelan border on the Simon Bolivar International Bridge in Cucuta, Colombia, April 2, 2019. REUTERS/Ferley Ospina NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.

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By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS, April 10 (Reuters) - United Nations aid chief Mark Lowcock told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that there is a "very real humanitarian problem" in Venezuela and that the world body is ready to do more if it gets more help and support from all parties.

"The scale of need is significant and growing. The United Nations is working in Venezuela to expand the provision of humanitarian assistance," Lowcock said. "We can do more to relieve the suffering of the people of Venezuela, if we get more help and support from all stakeholders."

He briefed the council on a recent U.N. report on the situation that estimates about a quarter of Venezuelans are in need of humanitarian assistance and painted a dire picture of millions of people lacking food and basic services.

Some 3.4 million Venezuelans have left the country, Lowcock said. This number was expected to rise to some 5 million by the end of the year, said Eduardo Stein, the joint envoy for Venezuelan refugees and migrants for the U.N. refugee agency and the U.N. migration agency.

Lowcock stressed the need for humanitarian efforts to be neutral, impartial and independent.

In February Venezuelan troops blocked U.S.-backed aid convoys entering from Colombia and Brazil. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said there is no crisis and blames U.S. sanctions for the country's economic problems. Maduro has accepted aid from ally Russia.

"In Venezuela, there is a need to separate political and humanitarian objectives. Humanitarian assistance must be delivered on the basis of need alone," Lowcock said. "We seek the council's support to safeguard the neutral and impartial nature of humanitarian action."

Lowcock said the number of U.N. staff in Venezuela had nearly doubled since 2017 to some 400 and that U.N. agencies were working in all 24 Venezuelan states.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and James Dalgleish)

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