Serving Venezuelan Migrants as They Face the Coronavirus Crisis

July 22, 2020 • Colombia

A Samaritan’s Purse medical team in Colombia is treating migrants making their way back home to Venezuela. These vulnerable people recently lost jobs and homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Samaritan’s Purse is providing medical care, hot meals, and trafficking prevention education at a migration transition center in Cúcuta, Colombia, for hundreds of Venezuelans deciding to return to their home country.

A Samaritan’s Purse medical team conducts health screenings for migrants crossing the border at Simón Bolívar International Bridge.

A Samaritan’s Purse medical team conducts health screenings for migrants crossing the border at Simón Bolívar International Bridge.

They are returning because they find themselves homeless and jobless in the wake of the COVID-19 health crisis, which has led to the shutdown of businesses for several months. Others want to return home to be closer to family members during this time of uncertainty.

The migrants arrived in Colombia filled with hope to provide for their families—both those who had traveled with them and those remaining in Venezuela. Now, with many no longer able to afford to stay, they are facing an uncertain future back home. Venezuela continues to suffer through economic hardship and violence.

A Samaritan’s Purse team of local medical professionals in Colombia is providing wellness checks and basic medical care to these returning Venezuelans at a governmental migrant center called Centro de Atención Sanitario Tienditas (CAST). Previously, our medical team conducted health screenings near the Simón Bolívar International Bridge border crossing and in area migrant communities of the Yukpa indigenous tribe.

HELPING THE HURTING

In addition to examining patients at the CAST migrant center for potential COVID-19 symptoms and providing primary health care, our team is offering much needed words of encouragement based in God’s Word.

“We believe God has put us in this moment and this hour to bless those who are returning to their country in difficult situations,” said Paula Melo, health program manager for Samaritan’s Purse in Colombia. “But we are happy and encouraged to help in the Name of Jesus.”

“We are happy and encouraged to help in the Name of Jesus.”

The physical and emotional toll that the migrant journey is taking on people of all ages is painfully evident as our medical staff routinely dispenses medication for hypertension, various infections, and malnutrition.

The hot meals that local Samaritan’s Purse volunteers are serving at the center are often the first that many of the migrants have eaten in several days. Though exhausted, sleep is hard to come by for some because of stress. Insomnia, high blood pressure, and other signs of anxiety are common because just as they were beginning to adjust to their new lives in another country, they are having to start over again.

HARROWING JOURNEY

Dayerlin and her husband both lost their jobs because of the pandemic and were evicted since they could not afford the rent.

Our team is conducting health screenings for Venezuelan migrants who’ve often made strenuous journeys back to the border.

Our team is conducting health screenings for Venezuelan migrants who’ve often made strenuous journeys back to the border.

She decided to take their 5-year-old son back to Venezuela to live with her parents because “at least I have a place to stay there,” Dayerlin said.

The journey back home has been traumatic. It took them 20 days to walk or hitch rides. Then, they waited over a month until they could get a bus ride to the border, sleeping in the streets with only a sheet of plastic as covering and often getting caught in the rain during the night.

Her biggest fear sleeping outside was being vulnerable to gang violence. It was difficult to find food and when she did, sometimes it was stolen from her. At times, Dayerlin had to hide her son so he wouldn’t see people stabbing each other in the streets.

“I am just desperate to get home,” she said. “I went through a lot on the way here. I experienced so much danger on the street.”

REST FOR THE WEARY

Luis and his wife are grateful for the assistance at the migrant center, especially the food and showers—both of which have been hard to come by during their journey.

They are returning to Venezuela because they were evicted from their rental after they couldn’t pay a 150-percent increase, which their landlord wanted once pandemic stay-at-home precautions took effect. Luis had worked two jobs, both of which shut down because of the pandemic, but that still would not have been enough to pay the sudden rent increase.

Our team is preparing hot meals for migrant families, many of whom haven’t had a meal for days.

Our team is preparing hot meals for migrant families, many of whom haven’t had a meal for days.

Jhoan, who came to Colombia last year for surgery and months of rehabilitation therapy, made ends meet by selling plastic bags.

But since the pandemic, he only made a fourth of what he did before. That was barely enough for rent but not for other basic living expenses. So, he used his only remaining savings to pay for bus fare and start his journey back home to Venezuela.

“I travel alone … well, with God,” Jhoan said. “He is the One who does not forget you.”

Pray for the strength and love of the Lord Jesus Christ to bolster migrants experiencing emotional and spiritual turmoil. Pray for our staff in Colombia as they hear these heartbreaking stories and seek to provide help and hope in Jesus’ Name. Pray for the local volunteers who are serving meals at the migrant center.

Along the migrant trail in Colombia, we are continuing to provide food, hygiene kits, and a place to rest at our relief station in La Donjuana. As a precaution against COVID-19, the shelter is not providing overnight sleeping quarters.

We also are distributing food parcels and evangelistic materials in partnership with several local churches as they help migrants in crisis. Pray for these faithful ministry partners as they serve as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ to those in need.

SUPPORT
We began today receiving patients at the respiratory care unit.
Emergency Medicine Your gift will enable Samaritan’s Purse to provide life-saving medical care (including doctors, nurses, respirators, and other essential equipment) in places where vulnerable communities are suffering in the wake of disaster or from outbreaks of infectious diseases like COVID-19. We also offer public health outreaches to prevent the spread of life-threatening illnesses. Most importantly, we are able to bring the Gospel message of eternal hope to those who are suffering and afraid.

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