(Portland, OR) November 1, 2023 – Medical Teams International is grateful to receive an award of $4 million USD from the U.S. Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) to support one year of Medical Teams’ continuing work to provide life-saving medical care in Colombia, particularly for people migrating from Venezuela. “Rompiendo Barreras a la Salud: Increasing Access to Long-term Health for Venezuelan Migrants and Vulnerable Populations,” will serve 70,000 migrants and vulnerable Colombians with health education and improve their access to essential health care services.

Medical Teams operates in Barranquilla, Bogota, Bucaramanga, Cienaga, Santa Marta, and Tunja in Colombia. The new PRM funding will allow our programs to expand to the city of Cali on the Pacific coast, and the cities of Apartado, Turbo, and Necoclí in the region of Uraba. Program participants will be eligible to receive health education, subsidized health care at no cost to them, and hygiene vouchers to promote positive health behaviors and outcomes. Medical Teams is excited about the innovative approaches used to improve health access, including the use of electronic vouchers and a humanitarian storefront in Uraba to support caminantes, migrants in transit, to purchase essential hygiene products along their route.

To make a longer-term impact, Medical Teams will also provide case management and support to individuals to enroll in subsidized health insurance and exercise their legal rights as residents of Colombia. Along with the in-person services, Medical Teams provides virtual assistance through localized Whatsapp groups for people seeking services, as well as an online website to access current information. A local legal services organization will be contracted to operate a national support hotline for both individuals and staff.

While the funding will be allocated to serving the most vulnerable migrants and Colombians throughout the country, programming will be especially critical for Venezuelans with irregular migratory status living in Colombia. They make up an estimated 40% of the 2.8 million migrants in the country, and they face challenges to integration, including poverty and discrimination. In addition, Colombia has seen an increased spike of migrants traveling from Venezuela and Latin America, especially those en route to the United States through Uraba. Uraba is home to the Darién Gap, one of the world’s deadliest jungles, which has seen an estimated 250,000 attempt to cross it in 2023 alone. Funding will provide essential services such as vaccines, family planning, breastfeeding education, and provision of personal hygiene items to alleviate suffering for the women, children, older adults, and people with disabilities most in need.

“This renewed commitment and investment in breaking barriers to health could not come at a more critical time, as the number of migrants in transit continues to grow and health systems in Colombia continue to stretch to accommodate the needs of hundreds of thousands of people,” said Steve Cooke, Medical Teams Country Director in Colombia. “The next year will be critical as the humanitarian situation continues to evolve in Colombia and the lives of tens of thousands are put at risk through dangerous journeys.”

Medical Teams has worked in Colombia since 2019, focusing on reducing barriers to health care access for Venezuelan refugees and migrants, especially for pregnant women, women of reproductive age, and children under five. Medical Teams programs in Colombia aim to reduce morbidity, mortality, and malnutrition rates and increase access to primary healthcare services, sexual and reproductive health, maternal, newborn, and child health, mental health, and non-communicable disease management. Its previously implemented PRM project “Protection and Prevention Against COVID-19 for Vulnerable Venezuelan Migrants and Colombians,” from September 2021- September 2023, provided health education and services for 45,000-50,000 vulnerable migrants and Colombians annually.

About Medical Teams International

Founded in 1979, Medical Teams International provides life-saving medical care for people in crisis, such as survivors of natural disasters and refugees. We care for the whole person— physical, emotional, social and spiritual. Daring to love like Jesus, we serve all people—regardless of religion, nationality, sex or race. Learn more at medicalteams.org and on social media using @medicalteams.

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