Border Clinic Provides Medical Care for Displaced Venezuelans

June 13, 2019 • Colombia

Staff members at the Samaritan’s Purse healthcare facility in Maicao, Colombia, are sharing God’s love and treating the sick with dignity.

Help Venezuelans in Crisis

Dozens of Venezuelan migrants line up at 8 a.m. every Monday to Friday outside the Samaritan’s Purse medical clinic in Maicao, Colombia, located less than eight miles from the Venezuelan border. Another line will form about 1 p.m. for a second round of doctors’ visits.

Dozens of patients are treated six days a week at the Samaritan's Purse clinic.

Dozens of patients are treated six days a week at the Samaritan’s Purse clinic.

These men, women, and children have fled Venezuela where food and medicine, and sometimes even water and electricity, are scarce. In Colombia, where they now call home, the situation is better in some ways, but still quite difficult. Many spend most of the day in the streets, trying to earn a meager income any way they can—selling flowers or crafts or food.

Not surprisingly, parents and children are getting sick, with colds, coughs, rashes, parasites, diarrhea, and other maladies. Which Venezuelans have access to Colombia’s national medical system can be a complex issue, but at the Samaritan’s Purse clinic anyone can be seen free of charge. Desperate migrants often have no place else to turn and are grateful for the high-quality care and compassionate service they receive from us.

Earlier this year Mileydis and her husband Adrian came to Colombia with their two young daughters.

“We had nothing to eat. Hospitals are closed,” she said. “There’s no hope in Venezuela.”

Mileydis and Adrian, Venezuelans in need, sought medical care for their youngest at our clinic.

Mileydis and her husband Adrian sought medical care for their youngest at our clinic.

Mileydis and her family had only been in Colombia a week when their 8-month-old developed a fever and a cough. They sought relief at our clinic and their little one was treated for a respiratory illness.

“If I hadn’t brought my daughter to the clinic, I think she would have gotten pneumonia,” said the 24-year-old mother. “I thank the doctors who gave me the medicine.”

Sadly, Mileydis knows all too well what can go wrong if people do not receive prompt, effective healthcare. Her mother died from an infection right before Mileydis left Venezuela. She blames the social crisis in her home country—where even basic medicines are not always available—for her mom’s death.

Mileydis and her infant daughter at the Samaritan's Purse clinic in Maicao, La Guajira, Colombia.

Mileydis and her infant daughter at the Samaritan’s Purse clinic in Maicao, La Guajira, Colombia.

At the Samaritan’s Purse clinic, Mileydis found not only the medical help her family needed, but also spiritual comfort. Chaplain Arley Tirado consoled her on the loss of her mother, prayed with her, and presented her with a new Bible. He prayed for strength, blessing, and provision for her family, and thanked God for the opportunity to meet with her.

“The Bible says we should give every burden to God,” Chaplain Tirado told Mileydis. “You’re not alone.”

She then mentioned that she had gone to church the night before she came to the clinic, and he encouraged her to draw close to God in this difficult time.

“Remember that Jesus loves you,” he said.

Mileydis left the clinic moved by the concern extended to her. “They gave me great care, very loving,” she said. “I think Samaritan’s Purse does a great work. God is touching the hearts of people to help [us].”

God’s Love Expressed in Word and Deed

Crispin Figueroa, the medical director of the Maicao clinic, is clear about what distinguishes our facility from other medical services in the area. Samaritan’s Purse staff share the Gospel and treat every patient with dignity while providing high-quality healthcare.

“We accept people as they are,” Figueroa said. “Some people haven’t bathed for three days. We don’t judge them, we accept them because that’s how God wants us to treat them.”

medical clinic for Venezuelans in Colombia

Medical Director Crispin Figueroa talks with a mother inside the Maicao clinic.

The majority of our patients are women and children, Figueroa said, with easily treatable issues and illnesses, often caused or worsened by poor nutrition and poor living conditions. And it’s those circumstances that make our clinic all the more needed. Ten percent of the little ones we see are malnourished.

Staff also remain vigilant for more rare cases of measles and diphtheria, as vaccinations are not routine in Venezuela right now. “Everything there is off,” Figueroa said.

The love of God permeates workdays at our clinic, not only in deed but in word, too. “The ability to preach the Word is what I really like about this,” Figueroa said. “God is in the middle of it.”

Chaplain Arley Tirado reads from the Bible before praying for patients.

Chaplain Arley Tirado reads from the Bible before praying for patients.

More than a dozen staff members gather for prayer and devotions each morning. Chaplain Tirado, who is also a pastor and trained psychologist, shares briefly from the Bible and prays for all the patients as a group once they’ve entered the building.

He also offers private prayer and counseling to those interested, usually about 10-12 people each day. “We know that God hears their prayers and answers their need,” he said. Samaritan’s Purse has good relationships with local churches and patients looking for a congregation can easily be connected.

Some folks come in just for prayer. Chaplain Tirado recalls one young woman who was referred to him by a concerned friend last December. The woman was strongly considering an abortion and felt distant from the baby’s father, but her friend told her to first come talk to our clinic chaplain before reaching a conclusion. After praying about and discussing the situation with him, she decided to carry her baby to term. She came to the clinic a few times after that, thanking God for the lifesaving counsel she received. Early in 2019 she moved away from Maicao, but, at last contact with Chaplain Tirado, she reported the pregnancy was going smoothly and her relationship with the baby’s father had improved.

The clinic has become a beacon of light to many. “What is happening here is transforming people,” Figueroa said.

Chaplain praying at Samaritan's Purse clinic in Colombia

Chaplain Arley Tirado prays for Mileydis and her family.

The Samaritan’s Purse clinic in Maicao, La Guajira Department, operates under the Colombia Ministry of Health in partnership with a local private healthcare provider. In addition to our onsite work, Samaritan’s Purse offers medical care two days a week inside the nearby UNHCR reception center (temporary camp). We also operate a mobile medical brigade in and around the border cities of Cucuta and Puerto Santander. So far this year, between these locations, we’ve seen over 10,000 patients, the vast majority of whom are Venezuelans now living in Colombia.

Go to our Colombia relief landing page to learn more about what Samaritan’s Purse is doing to help displaced Venezuelans. More than 4 million Venezuelans have fled their country since 2015, and Colombia has received over 1 million of them.

A young girl has a hearty meal at our shelter in Bucaramanga.
Help Venezuelans in Crisis Five million Venezuelans have fled their homeland over the past several years. Hunger, a collapsing healthcare system, and violence drive them to leave. Since 2018, Samaritan's Purse has provided relief to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants seeking a new life in Colombia. This may be the largest migrant crisis in Latin American history, and we're offering relief from multiple locations—providing food, shelter, and medical care among other services. As we minister, we are pointing people, young and old, to the eternal hope found only in Jesus Christ.

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