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Colombia-Venezuela Border Crisis

Active Emergency
August 01, 2018 -Present
Latin America: Colombia
Help families in crisis. Give Health Now.
Doctor Cindy having a medical consultation with Mibian and her two-year-old daughter who is suffering from asthma. Barranquilla, Colombia,

Ongoing Health Crisis

Migration: And still they come – month after month, week after week, every day Venezuelans cross the border (more than 5 million since 2015) driven by extreme food and medicine shortages, violence and political instability.  An estimated 1.8 million migrants have gone to Colombia – many seeking better healthcare 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. And now the coronoavirus global pandemic has added another challenge for access to health care as border crossings have been shut down.

Response: Americares has set up 10 clinics in eight departments in Colombia to meet the primary healthcare needs of migrants, some who may arrive with chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. In addition, the clinics are responding to the arrival of COVID-19, by providing clinic staff with critical personal protective equipment (PPE) and undertaking responsible social distancing measures.

Watch the video of one of our clinic staff, Dr. Kevin Pacheco, talking about the impact of their work.

Americares Magdalena clinic health worker in Colombia checking patient

Health Care at the Border

Updated March 2020

Americares initially began operating four medical clinics in Colombia and then opened six more in response to the ever-growing humanitarian emergency in Venezuela. The clinics are established in coordination with the Colombian Ministry of Health and Social Protection, and made possible with the generous support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) now called the Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA)..  In accordance with long-term plans, Americares has closed one clinic in Cesar in September and opened a new clinic in a different location in Cesar in October. In addition, Americares hired and trained Community Health Workers in the departments of Arauca, La Guajira, Magdalena, and Valle del Cauca in November. Americares hired more full-time personnel at all clinics in January, who will be focused on increased mobile clinic frequency and supporting clinical operations at the fixed facilities, as necessary. In February, Americares conducted 129 mobile clinics, which represents a significant increase from previous months.

The clinics have been providing essential health services free of charge to Venezuelan migrants and Colombian returnees six days a week. Since the beginning of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the clinics have had to reduce the number of hours they can operate in order to abide by protection and prevention guidelines for both staff and patients. By providing primary care, as well as delivering reproductive healthcare services and mental health support, Americares facilities are helping alleviate the strain Venezuelan migrants have placed on the Colombian health system. Mobility restrictions during the national quarantine in Colombia accounted for the loss of income of thousands of migrants mostly working in the informal sector. They have therefore faced economic barriers to access basic health services. Americares has adapted its services to meet the health needs of Venezuelan migrants throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many thousands of migrants have crossed the border in search of better healthcare, education and economic opportunities. Prenatal services are one of the major factors migrants seek care at the clinics around the country. From August 16, 2019 to February 26, 2021 Americares has conducted 248,879 patient consultations. Approximately 15 percent of those consultations are for prenatal care, and an additional 16 percent are focused on mental health issues, such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Since the program’s inception in July 2018, there have been more than 300,000 patient consultations. With the addition of 5 new CHWs, Americares Colombia now has nine CHWs operating across eight departments. Nine more CHWs will join in the coming weeks.

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 is in Connecticut; the same rules apply. Wear a mask, wash your hands and keep social distancing when possible. The science is clear. These three steps help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. Watch the video of a health worker teaching a young man how to properly wash hands.

COVID-19 Work

Americares continues to deliver home isolation packs to patients and their caregivers. In addition, all clinics continue to adapt their services based on evolving local regulations. With regards to vaccines, Americares Colombia is in conversations with relevant health authorities and partners at the local level. Community Health Workers (CHWs) in Barranquilla, Cali, Arauca, and Maicao continued conducting educational sessions pertaining to COVID-19 with the migrant communities, while the CHWs in the remaining locations continued the initial exploration and assessment of the relevant migrant communities. Thus far, this component has been very well received within migrant communities, including active participation in the educational activities.

Consequences of Delayed Health Care

A majority 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.

“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

Americares Magdalena clinic staff in protective gear during COVID pandemic

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.