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Help for migrants in Bogotá

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4 minutes

In recent years, almost half a million Venezuelans have found refuge in Bogotá, one in five people who went to Colombia. Although they live in a seven-million metropolis, the medical facilities available in the city are not able to take care of the health of the rapidly growing number of residents.

It is with the people who are most in need in mind that we have launched a mobile clinic in Kennedy, Los Martires, and Bosa, three districts of Bogotá. We provide prenatal consultations, perform quick tests for sexually transmitted diseases, and perform ultrasound, urine tests, and morphology. It is also a space for conducting educational classes and consulting gynecological checkups. Despite leaving Venezuela, migrants in their new place of residence are exposed to further threats. Although in most cases the stay in the country is documented and legal, the lack of a stable source of income and insurance is common, which results in prolonged neglect of health. For a significant number of people, the use of medical care is beyond their financial capabilities. Among the patients visiting the clinic, we meet women in advanced pregnancy, who only in the last few weeks use specialist consultations for the first time. Behind them are sad stories – an exhausting journey across the border, abandoning home and work for an unknown future in Colombia, but also the experience of violence, refusal of support at the most vulnerable moment of life, and poverty.

Although Venezuelans currently make up 5% of the total population of Colombia, they account for as much as 16% of people in the homeless crisis. Unemployment among Venezuelans is 24%, but as many as 90% of working migrants do not have any type of legal contact. In such difficult conditions, it is very easy for new crisis factors to emerge. Taking care of the health of them will allow them to avoid medical debt, which is becoming an increasingly serious problem among people operating both outside the insurance system and without permanent employment. But it is also necessary to create a place where migrants will feel safe and will not hear the word “no”. Our clinic is such a space. In order to encourage as many people as possible to use the services of the clinic, together with several friendly non-governmental organizations, we prepared Health Day on March 14. On that day in Los Martires, Bogotá, 38 women visited their general practitioner, and gynecologist and took HPV rapid tests. We also met with pregnant women and conducted educational sessions on sexual and reproductive health. Despite the high rate of people covered by health insurance in Colombia, the need for additional, free medical services for the country’s poorest residents and migrants who cannot take advantage of universal health insurance continues to grow. Our assumption is to help over a thousand people in the first year of the clinic’s operation.

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