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Colombia: Helping Venezuelan migrants and vulnerable local communities access life-saving health care

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Crisis Across the Border

Tension has been mounting for years in Venezuela, right across the border from Colombia. Political discontent, skyrocketing inflation and shortages of food and medicine have led to the collapse of health and education systems throughout the country. Already, more than 4 million Venezuelans have fled their home country, unable to afford or access basic necessities. According to UNHCR, this is the largest migratory flow ever recorded in Latin America. Colombia has received the highest number of Venezuelan migrants — more than 2 million — overburdening an already strained health care system. The influx of migrants isn’t likely to decrease in the near future.

The instability in Venezuela has dealt a massive blow to the health situation in Colombia — cases of malnutrition and vaccine-preventable diseases have surged, while maternal and neonatal health has plummeted. Today, more than 1.4 million people in Colombia — both Venezuelan migrants and vulnerable local families — need immediate health assistance.

Medical Teams Response

While the government of Colombia has welcomed new Venezuelan arrivals, their need for medical care far surpasses the country’s ability to provide them with basic assistance. Medical Teams will support the Colombian government by providing care for Venezuelan migrants and vulnerable Colombians. Our program is focused on caring for pregnant and lactating women and young children, as well as getting vulnerable communities access to life-saving medical care.

In addition to supporting local primary health care facilities, we will also implement a Community Health Worker program to train volunteers to create social health behavior changes within their communities, map and monitor vulnerable populations, and provide referrals to local health facilities. Community Health Workers are a vital and prominent way to send eyes and ears out into the local community and connect individuals with proper hygiene and health care within a vulnerable population.