“Venezuela: why didn’t you show me how to live without you?”
In the early morning hours of March 21, Yuleima, her husband, and her three young children, were awakened by the terrifying sounds of detonating bombs and shots fired near their home in La Victoria, a rural town in Venezuela’s Apure state. Clashes between armed groups in the region quickly turned deadly and forced thousands of families in the area to flee.
“As the ground shook, my children screamed in despair and I collapsed,” said Yuleima. “They grabbed my legs begging for us to leave. I cried inconsolably without having a place to take refuge.” Yuleima felt helpless and saw her dreams of growing her family farm disappear before her eyes.
Seeing no other option to keep their family safe, Yuleima and her husband decided to leave everything behind and cross the river into Colombia. Hours later, the family arrived in Arauquita where they were greeted by friends who had also fled the violence. The family silently mourned the loss of their home, their country and the dreams they hoped to make a reality as they made their way to makeshift humanitarian shelter for displaced families.
Yuleima and her family are just some of the estimated 5,800 people that had no choice but to flee La Victoria and seek refuge across the river in Arauqutia, Colombia as a result of the deadly fighting that began in late March between armed groups, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
“Having to suddenly drop everything and run in a hurry, I felt that my life was falling apart, it was an enormous burden for us. We lived happily in our little house, and we never thought we would leave our own country like that,” said Yuleima.
Once the family was safe at the shelter, Yuleima quickly assumed the role of a community leader, arranging for an Americares mobile medical clinic to provide quality primary care service free of charge for approximately 200 migrants. “We appreciate that they take the time to see us and diagnose us since we are many displaced families without any health insurance. I am pleased with the consultations that Americares offered me for both physical and mental health. The psychologist taught me some breathing tips so that I can apply them with my little ones when needed.”
Americares, a health-focused relief and development organization, has been providing essential primary care services and access to medicines for migrants fleeing the unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Venezuela since 2018. Operated 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 and USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, the nine Americares clinics aim to alleviate the strain on the Colombian health system by providing comprehensive primary care, including medical exams, mental health services and medication at no cost for Venezuelan families and Colombian returnees. Americares clinical staff also provide mobile outreach services in communities like Arauquita, which are struggling to support the influx of refugees and migrants arriving at shelters for displaced families.
“I long to return home and for everything to be much better than before,” said Yuleima. “I hope that in the future, my children do not suffer and experience the hardships we are going through right now. There are many dreams and goals yet to be fulfilled, and I hope to return home to make them come true.”
“Health for me is life. To all the people who make possible the help that Americares offers us, I wish them good health, prosperity and that they continue to provide for those most in need,”… Yuleima.