OTTAWA -- Canada is increasing its support to South American countries coping with the Venezuelan refugee crisis by $27 million.

The contribution comes at a pledging conference being hosted today by the European Union and Spain to alleviate the strain on countries such as Colombia, Peru and Ecuador that have borne the brunt of the second worst refugee crisis on the planet.

The health care and education systems of Venezuela's neighbouring countries are under increasing strain as they absorb five million refugees while coping with the strain of COVID-19.

International Development Minister Karina Gould is announcing the additional Canadian contribution, which brings Canada's spending on the humanitarian crisis in its Western Hemisphere neighbourhood to $80 million over the past two years.

Colombia's Foreign Affairs Minister Claudia Blum says her country has welcomed 1.8 million Venezuelan refugees with open arms, giving them access to health care and allowing children to attend public schools.

But she says Colombia needs more financial help to cope with the increasing numbers of refugees, amid the ongoing challenging of fighting COVID-19