A father from a Venezuelan migrant community in Bucaramanga, Colombia, fills out paper work as registration to have his family become recipients of medical consults and hygiene and cooking kits provided by a special project led by ADRA Colombia. The 12-month initiative will offer assistance to thousands of Venezuelan migrants who have left the economic and political turmoil in their homeland. Photo: ADRA Colombia

April 10, 2019 | Bogota, Colombia | Libna Stevens/IAD

For the past seven months, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency  (ADRA) in Colombia has been providing assistance to thousands of migrating Venezuelans who have crossed into the eastern border of Colombia to escape the economic and political instability in their homeland. The project represents an assistance of over 2.5 million US dollars, the largest the Adventist agency has been managing in the country, ADRA Colombia officials said.

According to recent government statistics, there are more than 1.1 million Venezuelans who have migrated into Colombia recently, making up 30 percent of the population mainly stationed at bordering regions with Venezuela. Some 23 percent of those migrants have settled in the capital city of Bogota, and 41 percent are living an irregular or unstable conditions, explained Gabriel Villarreal, ADRA Colombia director.

“We noticed the influx of people and noticed that many who came into the country without their proper documentation, were not able to have medical access in Colombia for a designated period of time, so we came up with a project to offer free health assistance to thousands of Venezuelans” said Villarreal.

ADRA Colombia staff tend to hundreds of families in the city of Bucaramanga, where thousands of Venezuelans have settled after traveling from the border with Venezuela some 200 kilometers away. Photo: ADRA Colombia

So far ADRA Colombia staff and volunteers have provided medical consults to thousands of people in migrant communities settled in the city of Bucaramanga, which is 200 kilometers from the main border crossing in Cucuta, Colombia with Venezuela. These consults include free medical check-ups, lab tests if necessary, as well as medications to thousands of families across Bucaramanga and Medellin—the second largest city in Colombia some 390 kilometers west of Bucaramanga.

The medical screenings are being led by staff from two Adventist medical centers in each city to care for an estimated 10,200 individuals, including 5,000 consults in Medellin and 5,200 in Bucaramanga.

Each medical team in the Bucaramanga and Medellin sees approximately 500 to 600 individuals per month thanks to ADRA staff who work in coordination with local government and municipal officials to seek Venezuelan migrants in need of the medical services, explained Villarreal.

ADRA Colombia social worker staff enter a community in Bucaramanga, where hundreds of Venezuelan migrant families are settled. Photo: ADRA Colombia

“Many Venezuelans come to Adventist churches seeking assistance and they are led to the registration process in community centers and/or Adventist churches near them to receive free medical check-ups,” said Villarreal.

In addition, ADRA Colombia, through a large donor, is providing basic hygiene kits, cooking kits and housing kits, said Villarreal.

“When we were studying to come up with this project we noticed that Venezuela migrants in Bucaramanga were in grave need of basic hygiene kits and they were sleeping in parks and on the streets, so we knew we had to extend the assistance,” said Villarreal.

A Venezuelan couple speak to an ADRA Colombia staff member after receiving mattresses, sheets and a cooking kit. Photo: ADRA Colombia

There are 2,500 basic hygiene kits, 2,500 cooking kits—which include pots, plates, utensils – and 2,500 housing kits–which includes mattresses and sheet sets that are being distributed already. The assistance is released on an average of 500 to 600 per month, said Villarreal.  In addition, recipients are taught and receive a flyer on how to wash their hands regularly, how to practice safe family planning, and more.

“Parts of the border of Venezuela have recently been closed and some of the influx has decreased but many are still walking for miles and miles through the cold for days to cross over into Colombia and further into our country, so we know there is much need for this project intervention,” said Villarreal.

Already Villarreal said that they are planning to appeal for another phase of the assistance project beyond the 12 months after August. “We want to expand and help more Venezuelans as they transition from their country into Colombia,” Villarreal said.

Venezuelan beneficiaries collect their cooking kits at a store next to ADRA Colombia leaders. Photo: ADRA Colombia

ADRA Colombia has also been supporting other projects to assist Venezuelans as they uproot their lives into Colombia through ADRA fundraising campaigns throughout the country.

To learn more about ADRA Colombia and its projects and initiatives, Click HERE

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