“Children die of malnutrition and lack of medical attention,” says Esmerelda, holding her 2-year old son tightly. “There is no food, no medication.” She is describing Venezuela, the homeland she fled two years ago.
Esmerelda is one of an estimated 2.6 million people who have left Venezuela since 2014; more than 1.1 million have arrived in Colombia. To provide care and ease the burden on Colombian health facilities, Americares opened four primary care clinics in towns near the border or where Venezuelans have settled. Most of the patients at the clinics are Venezuelans, though the clinics are open to anyone who lacks a national identification card, Colombians included.
“I am very grateful to Americares because they have given me medical attention and have provided me with medicine,” says Esmerelda, who recently learned she is pregnant. “If Americares stops providing this help for us, I do not know what I would do to continue receiving the care that I need for my baby.”
Sick with tuberculosis, Alcides also escaped the crisis in Venezuela. “I knew that if I did not receive medical attention, I would die,” he says. “In Venezuela, there is no food, no employment; there is a lot of crime, people are dying from starvation and multiple illnesses. I couldn’t receive the treatment I need because there is no medication.” When Alcides arrived in Colombia, he did not have insurance; when he sought care at a Colombian hospital, staff told him about Americares clinics. Alcides works in Columbia to send money to his 90-year-old mother in Venezuela.
Since Americares clinics opened in July 2018, Americares medical staff in Colombia have managed more than 30,000 patient visits. “Twenty percent of the patients are pregnant women seeking prenatal care,” says Americares Colombia Country Director Walter James. “More arrive each day. We are committed to providing services—the only health care many Venezuelans in Colombia have access to.”