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Though Colombia is categorized in the upper-middle income level, inequality and regional disparities in income particularly affect vulnerable groups. The poorest 20% of families receive only 3% of total GDP, and 54% of rural families have no land. Colombia has been engaged in an internal armed conflict between guerrillas, government forces and paramilitary groups for over 40 years. More than 5 million people have suffered forced displacement in the country, mainly in rural and semi-rural areas, which contain pockets of high Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) – principally among indigenous and Afro-Colombian populations, while access to health care services is limited.

Colombia hosts close to 10% of the planet’s biodiversity, but 48% of its territory is affected by soil erosion and each year 120,933 hectares are deforested. Colombia has a climate risk index of 54.17, which makes it one of the countries most vulnerable to natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, forest fires and landslides in the region.


Malteser International has been active in Northern Colombia since 2014 working in the fields of health, food security and climate change adaptation mainly in the poor rural areas of the departments of La Guajira, César and Magdalena, and with vulnerable groups (indigenous, Afro-Colombian and conflict affected populations).

Luisa: Keeping faith and hope alive

Luisa Persoso, a 28-year-old Venezuelan migrant in Colombia, faced immense challenges leaving her homeland and adjusting to life with her three young children while leaving three others behind. Arriving in Riohacha as refugees, they found themselves without support, navigating uncertainty daily.

Thanks to Malteser International's nutrition programs, Luisa's youngest son, Abraham, who was malnourished upon arrival, has since thrived. With ongoing support from the program, including nutritional kits and healthcare, Luisa has been able to provide for her children.

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From despair to hope: Ruth's story

October 2015 will be marked in Ruth's memory forever. A neighborhood game turned into a nightmare when her son, Edwin, accidentally got a syringe in his eye, causing a retinal detachment. Ruth and her son were confronted with a challenging journey to recovery after spending days in the hospital and undergoing seven surgeries. 

Due to socioeconomic hardships in Venezuela, Ruth was constantly traveling to Colombia. Each trip was a desperate scramble for funds to cover Edwin's mounting medical bills. Complications on each trip across the Colombian-Venezuelan border deteriorated her state of mind. In 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, she decided to move to Colombia permanently. 

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Cristal: Finding hope and healing in Colombia

At just 17, Cristal became pregnant for the first time. The young woman lived in Venezuela at this time, where life had become a daily struggle. With a newborn child and siblings to support, Cristal, barely out of high school, found herself trapped in a deteriorating economic and political climate. Hoping for a better life for her family, she left her home country and settled in Santa Marta, Colombia. In need of support, she received medical care from Malteser International when she became pregnant again.

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Lujaris' Path to a Brighter Future in Colombia

Lujaris del Carmen Báez Fernández left Venezuela and sought refuge in Colombia, where Venezuelan refugees face difficulties accessing healthcare. The pregnant women and her one-year-old son receive medical and nutritional assistance by Malteser International. This support has given Lujaris hope for a better future for her family.

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On the run: Health must not be left behind

According to the latest figures of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), some 110 million people were on the run in 2022. This is the highest number recorded. Displaced individuals remain among the most vulnerable members of society and their health needs are often neglected. Many of them undertake long, exhausting journeys with inadequate access to food and water, sanitation, and other basic services, increasing their risk of getting sick.

On the occasion of World Refugee Day, June 20th 2023, we are launching a digital campaign under the title „ On the run: Health must not be left behind “. With this campaign, we want to raise awareness about everyone ‘s right - regardless of their circumstances - to health and access to people-centered and high-quality health services.

More information about our campaign

Community Dialogues Bring Medical Care to Indigenous Groups

Malteser International supports dialogues and workshops between local government entities, healthcare providers, and local communities seeking to improve their integration and cooperation. The goal of these dialogues is to strengthen the connections that support the healthcare of Indigenous people.

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Malnutrition in Colombia

According to the WHO around 45% of deaths among children younger than five are linked to malnutrition. That is a global total of 3.1 million per year. Vulnerable populations and refugees are at the most risk, and they often fall victim to a cycle of poverty that is hard to escape from. This is also the case for migrants from Venezuela in the department of La Guajira in the north of Colombia. Malteser International supports children and pregnant women affected by malnutrition.

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Biodiversity, strengthening communities and sustainable development

The meeting of the fresh waters of the Magdalena River and smaller tributaries from the Sierra Nevada with the salt waters of the Caribbean Sea has created the perfect ecosystem for one of the most biologically diverse environments in the country. The Cienaga is home to hundreds of species of fish, including the expensive Striped Mojarra and the famous Bocachico. Exotic birds, monkeys and more than 33 species of mammals contribute to the thriving ecosystem. It is also home to the largest mangrove forest in the Colombian Caribbean.

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Youth Leadership School: Ruth is a change maker!

The province of La Guajira in northern Colombia offers young people few prospects. Poverty, unemployment and climate change are just a few of the problems the region is facing. Ruth Uriana de Armas and 49 other indigenous and Afro-Colombian youths have made it their task, against all odds, to bring about change in their homeland.

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Training midwives in Colombia's indigenous communities

For centuries, traditional birth attendants and midwives like Juanita have played a key role for pregnant women in indigenous communities. Their years of experience and knowledge of natural medicine have earned them trust and respect as invaluable providers of rural maternal care. However, most traditional birth attendants are often incapable of handling obstetric complications, leading to high maternal and infant deaths.

By training local midwives, Malteser International is helping to provide the skilled care indigenous women in Colombia need to give birth safely.

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Venezuela/Columbia: A future in the midst of crisis.

Colombia has taken in almost one million refugees from Venezuela. Ana, Iris and Carlos are all seeking a better life and a better future in Colombia. These are their stories:

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The plight of an indigenous Venezuelan refugee

Ana Ofelia González Cantillo is a 35 year old indigenous Colombian Wayuu woman who left Colombia 30 years ago for a better life. Up until recently she lived in Venezuela, but now Ana and her six children are refugees in her own country. After nearly starving, she and her family crawled underneath a dug out section of the city wall separating the two countries with only a chair and a hammock in hand.

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Jairo and Simona : a fight for survival

Jairo was born in Colombia but moved to Venezuela when he was just a child. Thirty years later, when times became too difficult and he and his family made the decision to flee the humanitarian crisis in Venezuala, his homeland of Colombia welcomed him with open arms, even after not living in the country for decades.

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The chance of a better future

Jimmy Chacon and his family have been fleeing from armed violence in Colombia for years. Half a century of brutal civil war have forced almost seven million people from their homes. Thanks to the conclusion of a tentative peace, however, hope is beginning to bloom again.

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Become a sponsoring partner and provide longlasting aid for people in need

As a sponsoring partner, your regular donation gives real, life-changing help to people in need in our project regions. Your commitment helps us plan ahead and bring about long-lasting impact.

  • We put your generous donation to use, bringing help to those who need it most.
  • Our monthly newsletter will keep you regularly updated on our work.
  • You can easily amend or stop your payment at any time.
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Completed projects:


Jelena Kaifenheim
Email: jelena.kaifenheim(at)malteser-international.org

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