On a rainy Wednesday before Easter, hundreds of Venezuelan migrants shuffled into the brick-walled courtyard of the Divine Providence Shelter in the Colombian border town of Villa del Rosario, sat down at long, low wooden tables and waited patiently for lunch. A priest led mass before scores of church volunteers served up steaming bowls of rice, lentils and sausages. The migrants tucked in. Many wore threadbare clothes.
Their sunken cheeks and wiry limbs suggested this was the first decent meal they had eaten in days. Children were barefoot. One man hobbled in on crutches, his right leg amputated below the knee. Another pushed an elderly woman in a wheelchair. These are the weary, often desperate victims of the worst migration crisis in recent Latin American history.
Some had arrived from Venezuela that morning, escaping food shortages, hyperinflation, a collapsing economy, disease and violence. Others had been in Colombia for days or weeks, looking for work, scavenging for food, sleeping in the streets and avoiding deportation. While the eyes of the world have been on the Syrian refugee crisis and the exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, Venezuela’s humanitarian disaster has gone relatively unnoticed.