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Braving Risks to Deliver Aid to Colombia

  • April 16, 2007
 A makeshift recovery room in a church, Mosquera, Colombia
 An impromptu recovery room at a church in Mosquera, Colombia

Colombia has endured one of the longest ongoing civil wars in recent memory:   Darfur is the only other area with more internally displaced persons due to violent strife.  Decades of conflict have included warfare waged against defenseless people, and resulted in the forced displacement of entire communities.  The basic human needs of food, water and shelter are a daily struggle for those who have been displaced from their homes, and access to medical attention is even more difficult.

Responding to these tragic conditions, AmeriCares has been working with the Order of Malta for the last eight years, delivering medicines, medical relief and other aid to help provide the access to health care that Colombia’s struggling populations so desperately need. 

AmeriCares provides the Order of Malta with donated medical supplies including surgical provisions such as anesthesia and basic medicines every two months. The Order of Malta distributes the supplies to hospitals, clinics and medical facilities, as well as Bogotá’s Civil Air Patrol (PAC), an intrepid group of pilots and physicians who fly and boat into remote territories to help those in need of medical attention. PAC’s experienced medical teams are able to work almost anywhere, performing major surgeries in a portable E.R. tent in less-than-ideal conditions. 

“The work these physicians are doing goes far beyond the call,” says Hector Emmanuelli, program manager for AmeriCares. “They face unbelievable danger just to get here, work all hours under the most primitive conditions, and really depend on partners such as AmeriCares to provide them with the meds and materials they need to make a difference to people in dire need.”

 A woman who has had cataracts for six years is helped by the PAC in Colombia.
 A woman who has had cataracts for six years is helped by the PAC in Colombia.

During a medical mission to Mosquera, PAC traveled by boat to a community isolated by mangroves. Doctors saw more than 1,100 patients in that time and performed over 200 surgeries, sometimes long into the night, essentially working 24 hours a day, taking only short breaks.

On that particular mission, medicines and medical supplies provided by AmeriCares supported a variety of surgeries, including a cataract operation that cured the blindness of a woman in her sixties; a procedure to remove a cyst from a man’s hand; and foot surgery for a young boy who had been wounded by a machete.

These people and many more like them receive the health care they need to live and survive due to the strength of AmeriCares and its trusted partner, the Order of Malta, who are undaunted by the challenging situations that arise in a country suffering from a long-standing conflict.