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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.  Over 1.7 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. And now the COVID-19 global pandemic has added another challenge for access to health care as border crossings have been restricted.

Response: Americares has set up nine clinics in eight departments in Colombia to meet the primary health care 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 COVID-19 pandemic by screening and identifying patients with suspected COVID-19 infections and referring those cases to designated clinics for testing. Staff have been provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) and specialized COVID-19 training.

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

Family picture of Lisbeth, her husband, children and dog Rocky

Health Care at the Border

Updated Oct 2021

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 were established in coordination with the Colombian Ministry of Health and Social Protection (MSPS) 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 for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA).  

In accordance with long-term plans, Americares consolidated clinics in the department of Cesar and opened a new facility in the city of Valledupar due to a higher concentration of migrants in the region. Americares has also hired and trained 36 Community Health Workers across the eight departments while adding more full-time personnel to support mobile clinic frequency as well as clinical operations at the fixed facilities. To date, Americares Community Health Workers in Colombia have conducted 619 educational activities across all clinic sites which have seen over 10,000 attendees.

Armed conflict along the border with Venezuela continues to cause a surge in border crossings in the Colombian department of Arauca. Americares mobilized medical staff in the region and is also taking a lead role in response to growing mental health and psychosocial support needs. For a personal view from this area, read about Lisbeth and Rocky and their family story.

The clinics have been providing essential primary care services free of charge to Venezuelan migrants and Colombian returnees six days a week. By providing primary care, as well as delivering reproductive health services and mental health support, the Americares clinics in Colombia are helping to alleviate the strain placed on the Colombian health system due to the influx of migrants. Mobility restrictions during the national quarantine in Colombia accounted for the loss of income for thousands of migrants predominantly working in the informal sector, leading to 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.

Thousands of Venezuelan migrants continue to cross the border into Colombia daily 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. Since August 2019, Americares has conducted 423,579 primary care patient consultations. Approximately 12 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.

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 boy how to properly his wash hands.

COVID-19 Response

Americares staff working in nine primary care clinics 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. Staff have been provided with personal protective equipment and specialized COVID-19 training. 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 staff at all nine clinics have had access to either the Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson or Sinovac vaccines. Community Health Workers at all nine clinics continue to provide patients with COVID-19 education and health messaging relevant to the migrant population.

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.

“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.