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Colombia-Venezuela Border Crisis

Active Emergency
August 01, 2018 -Present
Latin America: Colombia
Help families in crisis. Give Health Now.

Ongoing Health Crisis

Migration: And still they come – month after month, week after week, every day Venezuelans cross the border (more than 7 million since 2015) driven by extreme food and medicine shortages, violence and political instability.  Nearly 2.9 million Venezuelans have migrated to Colombia – many seeking better health care and economic opportunities.

Health Care: Pharmacies and hospitals in Venezuela have severe shortages of medicine and supplies and inadequate staffing as medical professionals leave the country. Even in locations where medical services are available in Venezuela, falling wages and hyperinflation have put medical care out of reach for many families. The collapse of the health care system has exacerbated health conditions for the migrant population with many going months without care. The COVID-19 global pandemic added another challenge for access to health care as border crossings were restricted. In Colombia, Venezuelans are entitled to receive emergency health care services from the Colombian public health care system, however, public or private non-emergency health services are often unaffordable and unattainable for most.

Response: Americares operates health centers and mobile clinics in 10 locations across Colombia to meet the increasing demand for primary care services and access to medicines for families fleeing the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, migrants arriving from other countries and host communities, some who may have chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Americares health services are especially vital for the migrants passing through Colombia known as “caminantes” or “walkers,” who make the treacherous journey on foot.

Watch the video of migrants coming to Colombia talking about their journey and hope towards a better future. “To be a ‘caminante’ (walker) is to have will, to have strength, and always telling yourself, ‘I can.’….”

Group of Wayuu Children with backpacks walking with backs to camera with 3 adults

Health Care at the Border

Updated December 2023

Americares initially began operating four medical clinics in Colombia then opened six more in response to the ever-growing humanitarian emergency in Venezuela. Operated in coordination with the Colombian Ministry of Health and Social Protection, and initially made possible with the generous support of the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), Americares health centers and mobile clinics in Colombia are now fully funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). Americares health centers and mobile clinics will be funded by PRM through September 2024.

Americares provides primary care services in 10 cities throughout Colombia including Arauca, Cali, Cúcuta, Ipiales, Maicao, Medellín, Puerto Carreño, Santa Marta, Soacha and Soledad. In Arauca, Cali, Cúcuta, Medellín, Puerto Carreño and Soacha, Americares operates health centers and also provides mobile outreach services in neighboring communities, as needed. In Ipiales, Maicao, Santa Marta and Soledad, Americares provides health services exclusively through mobile clinics.

Americares has hired and trained community health workers in seven departments, with logistical support from local community leaders, to promote educational messages for self-care in community settings and to connect people in remote areas with Americares’ clinical services. To date, Americares community health workers in Colombia have carried out more than 5,790 educational activities in all seven clinics and have seen more than 81,300 attendees.

The Americares health centers and mobile clinics provide quality primary care, including medical exams, mental health services, medication and health education workshops at no cost for Venezuelan families, migrants arriving from other countries and host communities. By providing primary care, the Americares clinics in Colombia are helping to alleviate the strain placed on the Colombian health system due to the influx of migrants. Click on the arrow to see how the mobile health clinics are reaching indigenous populations that do not have easy access to the regular clinics.

Thousands of Venezuelan migrants continue to cross the border into Colombia in search of quality health care, education and economic opportunities. Prenatal services are one of the major reasons migrants seek care at the clinics in Colombia. To date, Americares has conducted more than 1 million patient consultations in Colombia.

Health worker at Colombia clinic in Arauca teaches young man how to wash hands properly

Fighting the Pandemic with Proven Tools

It is the same in Colombia as it has been in Connecticut; the same rules have applied. Get vaccinated, wear a mask, wash your hands and keep social distancing when possible. The science is clear. These steps help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. Watch the video of a health worker teaching a young boy how to properly his wash hands.

COVID-19 Response

Americares staff in Colombia have been providing essential health services free of charge to Venezuelan migrants and Colombian returnees as well as screening and identifying patients with suspected COVID-19 infections and referring those cases to designated clinics for testing during the Global Pandemic. Staff have been provided with personal protective equipment and specialized COVID-19 training. Americares also delivered home isolation packs to patients and their caregivers. In addition, all clinics continue to adapt their services based on evolving local regulations. Community Health Workers at all clinics continue to provide patients with COVID-19 education and health messaging relevant to the migrant population.

The very young

A very young patient watches intently
A very young patient visiting an Americares clinic in Santa Marta

…and the Elders

An elderly patient receiving treatment from a health care worker
An elderly patient from Venezuela finds health care at the Santa Marta clinic in Colombia

…have access to quality health care at the Americares clinics.

Doctor in surgical gown with rainbow pin on front and wearing mask treats mother holding baby. Another child sits in chair in front and another health care provider works on a computer beside the doctor and mother.
Dr. Giovanna attends to a baby and her mother at the Americares mobile clinic in the El Talento settlement in Cúcuta. (Photo/Ana Maria Ariza)

…and this includes mental health care.

Claudia* once owned her own ceramics business in Venezuela and dreamed of building a good life for herself and her children, and then it all changed. Read Claudia’s story, Rising from the Ashes.

Staff member in mask and blue scrubs working with patient who is back to the camera.
Americares Psychologist Jhon Jairo speaks with Claudia, a patient at an Americares clinic in Colombia.

Consequences of Delayed Health Care

Many of the clinic visits involving pregnant women seeking prenatal care have underlying health conditions making them more susceptible to high-risk pregnancies. Some women arrive with potential pregnancy complications that can be treated at our clinics or are then referred to other healthcare providers.

Failure to identify and treat diseases early can lead to long periods of hospitalization and lengthen the recovery for patients. In the most extreme cases, lack of treatment can result in disability or death. In addition, prolonged health issues can prevent Venezuelans from working, increasing the financial burden on families already struggling due to the economic crisis.

And access to health care can be life changing for the most vulnerable people in a community. Scarlett’s story illustrates the power of health – mental and physical.

Access to health care – a good reason to celebrate.

A mother and child join the celebration
A mother and child join an Americares health education workshop and community celebration in a village outside of Santa Marta, Colombia, March 3, 2022. (Photo – Jeff Kennel/Americares)
“I will always be thankful to the people of Americares for saving my life. God bless you always for such beautiful work you do. And to the people who donate, I ask God to multiply them so that they continue to help people in need who so require it.”

Alcides, a clinic patient from Venezuela

Three medical staff members in full protective gear with gown, gloves, face mask, face shield, and their name plates attached to their gowns..
Putting a human face on staff members in PPE at Magdalena clinic in Colombia

Our Work Around the World

Americares responds to an average of 30 natural disasters and humanitarian crises worldwide each year, establishes long-term recovery projects and brings disaster preparedness programs to vulnerable communities. Our relief workers are among the first to respond to emergencies and stay as long as needed, helping to restore health services for survivors.