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Medical Visits Surge Along Venezuelan Border

  • April 04, 2019
  • Americares Colombia Clinics Treating Venezuelan Patients

Emergency medical teams provide over 50,000 patient consults

Venezuelan patients at Americares clinic in Colombia

Venezuelan couple speaks with a physician at the Americares medical clinic in La Guajira, Colombia. Photo by Nicolo Filippo Rosso/Americares.

Stamford, Conn. — April 4, 2019Demand for health services is surging at Americares emergency medical clinics in Colombia as Venezuelans stream across the border in search of food, employment and medical care. This week the clinics reached a milestone, surpassing 50,000 patient consultations since opening last summer.

Americares medical teams are treating nearly 2,000 patients a week at emergency clinics in Arauca, Atlántico, La Guajira and Norte de Santander. The health-focused relief and development organization plans to move one of its four clinics to a larger location and is seeking funding to open additional clinics in the coming months to meet the increasing demand for primary care.

“We opened our doors and the patients just kept coming,” said Americares Colombia Country Director Walter James. “People start lining up outside the clinic at 4 a.m. seeking help for health conditions that have gone untreated for months or even years. The care we are providing is preventing life-threatening health emergencies.”

Operated in coordination with the Colombian Ministry of Health, the Americares clinics provide free primary care services to children and adults six days a week. Patients receive medical exams, mental health services and medication free of charge.

Americares opened the clinics last summer at the request of the Colombian Ministry of Health, in response to an urgent need to provide medical care to the thousands of Venezuelans entering Colombia daily. Venezuelans in Colombia are only eligible to receive emergency health services from the Colombian health system and private care is typically unaffordable.

More than 3 million people have fled the crisis in Venezuela over the past five years. Colombia is hosting nearly 1.2 million displaced Venezuelans—the most in the region. The Colombian health system is working hard to address the growing number of patients, however the volume and complexity of cases is straining the capacity and finances of health facilities. 

Pharmacies and hospitals in Venezuela have severe shortages of medicine and supplies and inadequate staffing as medical professionals flee 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. A new report from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Human Rights Watch documents an increase in maternal and infant deaths, vaccine-preventable diseases and infectious diseases in Venezuela.

By the time patients arrive at the Americares clinics in Colombia some have presented with advanced-stage cancers, kidney failure, HIV and cardiovascular diseases, often due to lack of regular access to primary care. More than two-thirds of Americares patients in Colombia are women, including many pregnant women. About 20 percent of visits to the Americares clinics are expectant mothers seeking pre-natal care.

Americares has a long history of delivering medicine and medical supplies to partner health facilities throughout Latin America. In Colombia, Americares has partnered with the Order of Malta for 15 years to deliver medicine and medical supplies throughout the country. To date, Americares has distributed over $60 million worth of medicine and medical supplies to a network of 75 health centers and social service institutions.

Americares Emergency Response Program responds to approximately 30 natural disasters and humanitarian crises worldwide each year, establishes long-term recovery projects and brings disaster preparedness programs to vulnerable communities. Since its founding 40 years ago, Americares has provided more than $17 billion in aid to 164 countries, including the United States.

To make a donation to Americares Venezuela Regional Crisis Fund go to: