The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has doubled its budget for its humanitarian work in Venezuela to CHF18 million ($17.9 million).
“We must increase our work in Venezuela”, ICRC President Peter Maurer told reporters in Geneva on Wednesday. The international organisation's budget for field operations in the South American countryexternal link rose from CHF9 million to CHF18 million "in the last few weeks".
Maurer said the budget may need to be further extended as “huge needs are not covered”.
The Geneva-based ICRC is helping Venezuelan migrants in neighbouring Colombia and Brazil. It is working with the national Venezuelan Red Cross, mainly on health projects, and not taking sides in the political conflict between President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido, Maurer said.
“At the present moment our concern and focus is really on the one side to increase our response to Venezuelans, and the other to keep away from the political controversy and political divisions which are characteristic to the crisis in Venezuela,” he said.
Until now, the ICRC’s work has focused on promoting international humanitarian law among the police and armed forces and on cooperation with the Venezuelan Red Cross.
Around 40 countries around the world have backed Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido, who says he’s assumed presidential powers as head of the opposition-led National Assembly and hopes to oust President Nicolas Maduro and restore democracy to the country.
Guaido said humanitarian aid will begin flowing into the South American country despite Maduro's objections.
But a defiant Maduro, supported by Russia, China, Turkey, Cuba and Iran, maintains control of the military and calls the Guaido-led opposition a puppet of the United States, which he says is seeking to colonise Venezuela and exploit its vast oil resources.
Venezuela, formerly one of the richest countries in Latin America, is facing severe shortages of food and medicine, as well as galloping inflation, due to the country's economic crisis. Since 2015, some 2.3 million people have chosen to flee into exile, out of a total population of 31 million, according to the United Nations.