Global Emergency Update June 2024

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Global Emergency Update: Emergency Response to Crises Across Latin America
and the Caribbean

In the face of widespread emergencies, humanitarian needs across Latin America and the Caribbean are more interconnected than ever. This update provides a comprehensive overview of crises that have struck the region, from devastating floods in Brazil to escalating violence in Haiti to the ongoing Venezuelan refugee crisis. Each event, while unique in its impact, is a stark reminder of the shared challenges we face, and of the collective action required to address them.

Brazil

Boats on a river.

CRS and Caritas Brasileira share years of close coordination and outreach in some of the most challenging contexts in the country. This includes reaching communities in isolated areas with emergency relief supplies.

Photo by Thomaz Felippe for CRS

It has been nearly two months since Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul state was battered by flooding—the largest natural disaster in the state's history. Heavy rains across urban and rural areas destroyed at least 155,000 homes. A reported 169 people died and 56 are still missing. At least 600,000 people are displaced from their homes, with at least 155,000 of those homes destroyed. More than 2.3 million people remain directly affected. The heaviest impacts of the disaster are in Porto Alegre, Santa Maria, Caxias do Sul, Pelotas, Passo Fundo, Canoas and Rio Grande.

Many families are now returning to their homes, but the difficulties are numerous. At least 104,000 people still do not have access to electricity. The contaminated waters have led to increased cases of infectious diseases. The accumulation of solid waste has been one of the main challenges as families return, and flood currents have created mountains of waste throughout the region.

Cities suffered extensive damage to homes, businesses and key infrastructure. Many highways, roads and bridges remain damaged, leading to ongoing transportation difficulties.

Urgent needs include food, clean water, hygiene supplies, cleaning supplies for families returning home, protection for families residing in shelters, and restoration of essential services like water supply and electricity. The reconstruction of damaged infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, is also crucial.

CRS is on the ground and supporting Caritas Brasileira, a long-time partner, as it seeks to provide urgent, lifesaving assistance and meet the needs for long-term recovery. Priorities for support include the following:

  • Food and essential supplies—Cash assistance and direct distribution of food and critical items.
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene—Provisions of water, as well as hygiene kits and sanitation supplies for families.
  • Long-term recovery—Support for families to repair and rebuild their homes and for communities to restore their infrastructure.
Boats on a river.

CRS is working with Caritas Brasileira to meet the immediate needs of the vulnerable communities in Brazil.

Photo by Thomaz Felippe for CRS

Haiti

Insecurity in Port-au-Prince remains unpredictable, with political protests, gang attacks against government and private institutions, kidnappings and hijackings. Families across Haiti have been weathering a growing humanitarian crisis, with at least 5 million people facing food insecurity. Shortages of basic necessities, fuel and electricity continue in many areas.

Heavily armed gangs are a threat to people and businesses in Port-au-Prince and the surrounding regions. Residents of downtown Port-au-Prince neighborhoods such as Turgeau, Bois-Verna, Debussy and Pacot live under regular threat of attacks by the Grand-Ravine gang.

The May 1 announcement of a new prime minister, Fritz Bélizaire, was followed by increased violence by gangs seeking to consolidate their control of the capital.

At least 1.4 million Haitians are on the verge of famine, as the political crisis is devastating the economy and people’s access to food. At least 34 health institutions closed in April and May due to insecurity, lack of medical supplies, energy issues, looting and fires.

In recent weeks, some of the schools in Port-au-Prince have reopened their doors after having been closed since mid-March. About 200,000 children were affected by these closures according to UNICEF, and the impact of the violence on children’s mental health remains uncertain.

To compound the crisis, the rainy season has begun, with flooding and landslides causing the death of 13 people in the northern region of Cap-Haïtien.

The U.S. military, in cooperation with the Haitian National Police, has initiated a strategic deployment aimed at safeguarding airport infrastructure and evaluating ground conditions in anticipation of the arrival of the Multinational Security Support Mission. This initial deployment will be succeeded by a substantial influx of resources, with over 100 flights scheduled to Port-au-Prince, utilizing both U.S. Army aircraft and those chartered by the U.S. State Department. The Port-au-Prince airport officially reopened on Monday May 20, 2024.

Despite the security situation, CRS continues our operations in Port-au-Prince and all three field offices remain open in Les Cayes, Jeremie and Fort-Liberté. Current programs include:

  • Supporting 2,000 internally displaced families in Port-au-Prince, Delmas, Petion-Ville and Tabarre with cash assistance.
  • Supporting 500 families for relocation outside the displacement sites, with Mercy Corps as an implementing partner.
  • Improving water, sanitation and hygiene services for 2,000 families through activities that help prevent disease.
  • Improving the production of essential crops through agriculture activities.
  • Supporting access to fresh food and fortified commodities through vouchers.
  • Supporting caregivers and children.
  • Providing youth entrepreneur trainings.
  • Supporting farmer learning communities and savings groups.
  • Supporting small business development.
  • Implementing the McGovern-Dole Food for Education project.
  • Ongoing recovery efforts following the 2021 earthquake.
Two boys and a man standing in on rubble.

Even in the current humanitarian crisis in Haiti, families continue to recover from the devastating earthquake of 2021.

Photo by Georges Harry Rouzier for CRS

Venezuela

The humanitarian situation in Venezuela remains dire, with millions of people facing acute shortages of food, medicine and basic services. The economic and political crisis has driven more than 5.6 million Venezuelans to seek refuge in neighboring countries and beyond. CRS and our partners have been supporting the Church's response to the needs of the most vulnerable populations in the region.

Within Venezuela

CRS has supported Caritas Venezuela to provide critical health care, water, shelter and other support to 43,000 people. This included medical assistance for 11,322 people and nutritional screenings for 5,100 children under age 5—half of whom received nutritional supplements and support. Additionally, 1,200 women who are pregnant or new mothers were screened for their nutritional levels, with more than a third qualifying for nutritional support. CRS has also supported cash assistance to 3,800 families across seven dioceses, and is partnering with Caritas Venezuela on efforts to help families restore their livelihoods and, by extension, the local economy in both urban and rural communities.

Support for Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants Across the Region

In Brazil, CRS is supporting Caritas Brasileira on its operational capacities as it cares for thousands of Venezuelan refugees in shelters and social service centers. CRS’ technical support to Caritas includes strengthened procedures for risk assessments, feedback response channels, cash assistance and protection of the most vulnerable. CRS has also helped Caritas to respond to two major emergencies in the country: historic flooding, as described above, and historic drought in the northern state of Roraima on the border with Venezuela, where Caritas Brasileira will rehabilitate water supply systems in affected Indigenous communities.

In Peru, CRS is supporting Caritas Peru to provide health care, protection services and shelter assistance to Venezuelan refugees. CRS’ assistance includes improving our partner’s operational capacities, including for rent subsidy programming, adaptive management in changing contexts, protection of migrants, and safe programming standards and approaches to care for the most vulnerable.

In Chile, widespread wildfires ravaged multiple regions of the country in February, killing 133 people and damaging 10,000 homes, schools and other infrastructure. Several migrant communities living in informal settlements, including those of Venezuelan refugees, were highly affected by the forest fires. CRS has been providing ongoing support to Caritas Chile on its provision of cash assistance, shelter support and water, sanitation and hygiene support for displaced families in informal settlements.

A young child in winter clothes standing in front of people.

At 4 years old, this young girl has lived in more countries than the years she has. Her family left Venezuela in search of security. Here she’s seen receiving mittens at the San Juan Diego Migrant Shelter, located on the outskirts of Huehuetoca, México.

Photo by Thor Morales/CRS

Central American Migrant Crisis

In El Salvador, escalating gang violence and drug cartels have caused families to flee north in increasing numbers. Coupled with economic collapse in places like Venezuela and Haiti, increasing numbers of people are fleeing desperate conditions in their home countries. Many live in constant fear for their safety and struggle with chronic poverty, lack of job opportunities, and failed harvests caused by environmental degradation and climate change.

In Mexico, thousands of people—including entire families—have arrived seeking humanitarian visas, shelter, asylum or transit permits to reach the U.S. border. At the same time, Mexicans are displaced and migrating north to escape organized crime. More than 120 shelters and organizations are managed by Catholic institutions and civil society organizations across the region, providing food, a safe place to sleep for a few nights, medical assistance, legal advice, counseling and referrals to other organizations for additional services. These shelters have been doubling or tripling their capacity and providing more services than usual—particularly for mental health, employment, legal representation and education.

CRS is working closely with our Catholic partners and civic organizations to improve the safety, quality and efficiency of shelters and strengthen the capacity of staff and institutions at the front lines of the migrant crisis. This includes:

  • Assistance for food, medicine and supplies.
  • Legal, medical and psychological counseling.
  • Upgraded facilities.
  • Strengthening the capacity of shelter staff.
2 women preparing food in a kitchen.

CRS team member Leonor Zárate helps volunteers prepare breakfast for 50 migrants at the San Juan Diego Migrant Shelter on the outskirts of Huehuetoca, Mexico.

Photo by Thor Morales/CRS

Cross-Border Project: Making a Difference for People on the Move

In the rapidly changing context of people on the move across Latin America and the Caribbean, up-to-date information on their conditions offers more certainty for teams to meet urgent needs. In recent years, the flow of migrants in search of security has increased due to the social, economic and political crisis in Venezuela, as well as the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. By early 2022, an estimated 6 million Venezuelans had fled to neighboring countries, notably Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Brazil.

The way in which many people are migrating—through unofficial border crossings—creates a gap in information about who they are and what they need. This heightens their vulnerability to risks since very few safety net services are available to them. With strict visa requirements for refugees and migrants in the region, people often enter countries through unofficial border crossings, resulting in protection risks—especially for vulnerable populations, such as unaccompanied minors. Additionally, being undocumented limits access to basic services.

In one of the first projects of its kind, CRS is collecting data on cross-border government and humanitarian collaboration, which can provide insight not only for more effective care and response in the region, but on cross-border issues globally. This new information will provide vital insight on rapidly changing needs and opportunities to efficiently provide care and support for people in adverse circumstances.

The project will help humanitarian and government agencies address issues regarding family reunification, humanitarian transport, unaccompanied minors, human trafficking, health needs and cross-border case management. The perspective of migrants, government agency and aid actors will inform recommendations and a set of practical tools and trainings to ensure greater safety, care and support for people on the move.

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