How the crisis in Venezuela could hurt an entire generation of children

Why Venezuela's unseen crisis is education

As Colombia takes in thousands of Venezuelans fleeing surreal levels of inflation, hunger and political turmoil in their collapsing homeland, former diplomat Caroline Kennedy is calling on the U.S. to devote more resources to addressing one of the less talked-about aspects of this crisis: children's education.  

The former U.S. ambassador to Japan visited a Colombian border town two weeks ago and said the humanitarian crisis that's unfolding may affect an entire generation of children, many of whom are out of school.

"We saw thousands of people coming over every day just to buy the most basic supplies, food, medicine and many are staying because they just can't go home to Venezuela. And what we really saw was that there are millions of children that are not in school but Colombia wants to educate them," Kennedy told "CBS This Morning."

Kennedy called what's happening in the Latin American country the "biggest refugee crisis in the world today." Still, she said she is hopeful, in part because Colombia has signaled that it's willing to educate these displaced children — it just needs the resources.  

"The world community has a stake in this, because if we invest in the future of these children and every humanitarian crisis, they'll go home to rebuild their own countries and that's what we really want. We want a stable and prosperous Venezuela and Colombia," Kennedy said.

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Venezuelan migrant children are seen outside a tent in a humanitarian camp in Bogota, Colombia, on January 9, 2019. Raul Arboleda / AFP/Getty Images

Venezuela controls the largest oil reserves in the world and yet the country is in economic collapse, with inflation averaging 80,000 percent last year under President Nicolas Maduro. A growing number of countries around the world have joined the U.S. in recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaidó as interim president, and in calling for Maduro to step down.

What Kennedy said she doesn't understand is why only two percent of the humanitarian aid the U.S. sends is earmarked for education.

"It's a long-term investment, it's not a short-term crisis response … There's nothing more important than having children develop skills, develop their dreams, their hope for the future," she said.

"Colombia has open borders … this is a country that is welcoming everyone. Committed to educating them, committed to giving them health care. So I think that that's the kind place we need to invest. We can succeed here and give these people hope and then they can return home and rebuild their own country which is what we all want."