Malteser International is expanding medical aid activities in Colombia as a response to the increasing influx of refugees from crisis-ridden Venezuela.
Describing the situation in the Colombian border city of Riohacha, Ravi Tripptrap, Director of Malteser International Americas says the situation is getting worse by the day. “We have seen many people living on the streets, sleeping under bridges and falling very ill as a result of this situation. Many are completely overworked and are in need of urgent healthcare, a roof over their heads and security. Especially elderly people, pregnant women and children need medical help.”
Malteser International’s health teams are working with local hospitals and using mobile units in the departments of La Guajira and Magdalena in northern Colombia to perform medical check-ups, support people with supplementary food, medicines, and sanitary items, while providing them information on good hygienic practices. The most vulnerable among them have also received cash assistance. Nearly 30,000 people were beneficiaries of Malteser International’s aid efforts in 2018.
Since 2015 around 3 million people have left Venezuela due to the humanitarian and economic crisis in the country. Over one million have moved to Colombia, resulting in a migrant crisis that is one of the largest in Latin American history and second largest in the world after Syria.
“It is a serious humanitarian crisis,” Tripptrap said. “People are fleeing because they no longer have enough to eat, shelves in supermarkets are empty, inflation rate is over a million, and the economy has virtually collapsed. As long as the situation in Venezuela remains desolate, more people will continue to leave the country and the situation will only get worse.”