The United Nations predicted Friday that 5.3 million Venezuelans will have left the South American country by the end of next year to escape an ongoing political and economic crisis.
The estimate was included in a response plan to the largest migration of people in recent Latin American history. The plan was jointly developed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration.
'We are indeed facing a humanitarian earthquake,' Eduardo Stein, UNHCR-IOM special representative to Venezuela, said at a news conference in Geneva.
About 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015 and an additional 2 million are projected to flee next year. A total of 3.3 million are currently living abroad.
UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi said the reasons for the exodus ranged from 'pure hunger to violence and lack of security.'
The U.N. has asked for $738 million to help displaced Venezuelans and the countries that are hosting them.
Venezuela has some of the largest oil reserves in the world but remains consumed by an economic crisis.
Inflation in Venezuela soared 1.3 million percent in the year ending in November, the opposition-controlled National Assembly reported Monday. The finding is consistent with forecasts from the International Monetary Fund, which said inflation would likely exceed 1 million percent in 2018.
A series of authoritarian measures taken by the leftist government of President Nicolas Maduro has triggered economic sanctions from other countries, including the United States.