Stamford, CT - Stamford-based Americares, in partnership with Colombian health authorities, has opened a medical clinic in La Guajira, Colombia, to provide essential primary care services and access to medicines for migrants fleeing the mounting economic and political crisis in Venezuela. The clinic will also help alleviate the overwhelming strain placed on the Colombian health system due to the unprecedented influx of patients.
More than 1.5 million people have fled Venezuela since 2014 to escape extreme food and medicine shortages, violence and political instability. Basic necessities are increasingly scarce, and the collapse of the health care system has led to rising maternal and infant mortality rates, as well as a spike in malaria cases and increasing numbers of malnourished children. Pharmacies and hospitals in Venezuela have severe shortages of medicine and supplies and inadequate staffing as medical professionals leave the country. For many Venezuelans, leaving the country is the only way to receive medical care.
“Bringing quality health care directly to those who need it most is our top priority,” said Americares Associate Director of Emergency Response William Daley, who was in Colombia recently assessing the health needs of migrants crossing the border. “This new clinic will help support the restoration and stabilization of health services to keep families healthy.”
An estimated 5,000 people a day leave Venezuela for neighboring countries, including Colombia, which has received more than 600,000 Venezuelans since 2014, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. Local officials also estimate that as many as 50,000 people cross the border daily in search of food, medicine and temporary work.
Americares, the health-focused relief and development organization, began operating the medical clinic on July 3 in coordination with the Colombian Ministry of Health and a local hospital in the city of Maicao, near a major border crossing in the northeastern corner of the country. Staffed by local nurses, primary care physicians and Americares personnel, the clinic provides primary care services at no cost for children and adults five days a week through December.
Americares helps communities prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters, increase access to medicine and medical supplies, improve and expand clinical services, prevent disease and promote good health. Its Emergency Response team responds to an average of 30 natural disasters and humanitarian crises worldwide each year, from earthquakes and cyclones to disease outbreaks and civil conflict.