“In Venezuela my daughter was dying of malnutrition”
Unlike other countries in the region, Colombia has kept its borders open to Venezuelans, even though they don’t have the necessary resources to adequately cover the enormous needs alone.
“In Venezuela my daughter was dying of malnutrition,” said Juan Marcos*, a young father of three whose daughter was treated by MSF in Tame, Arauca department, for skin rashes caused by sleeping on the street. “Before I let a child die of malnutrition in Venezuela, I would a thousand times rather bring her here. At least someone will give her a cookie, so she can eat.”
When they first arrive, many people are forced to sleep on the streets before moving to slums or overcrowded houses. This leaves them vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups, discrimination, sexual violence, or forced prostitution.
Poor living conditions and lack of access to clean water and sanitation services also have a direct impact on people’s health. Migrants and asylum seekers have access to some health care through the Colombian health system, but it is limited to emergencies, births, and vaccinations, and the needs extend far beyond what these services can address.
At the end of 2018, MSF established three primary health and mental health care projects for Venezuelan migrants in the border departments of La Guajira, Norte de Santander, and Arauca. As of November 2019, our teams have conducted more than 50,000 medical consultations. Although these consultations do not reflect the magnitude of the situation, they indicate the enormous difficulties these people face in accessing medical care, adequate food, housing, and protection.