Millwood, VA, Dec. 21, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Project HOPE says it is scaling up its medical response in the border regions in Colombia as thousands of displaced Venezuelans continue to pour across the border each day, escaping extreme food and medicine shortages and exponential inflation.

The international health NGO warned that the Western Hemisphere’s most urgent humanitarian crisis is getting worse and Colombia’s health care system is facing a significant spike in patient volume. 

“Right now there is a total overflow,” said Adib Fletcher, the team’s representative in Colombia. “At some point, the situation is going to reach a breaking point.”   

To help ease the burden on health workers, Project HOPE deployed a team of general practitioner physicians to two health outposts in Villa del Rosario, Colombia in the North Santander department.  The team is working half-time shifts at the La Parada and Santa Barbard clinics near the eastern border with Venezuela, assisting local health workers who are overwhelmed by the influx of patient from Venezuelans. 

In Venezuela, extreme inflation and shortages of food and medical supplies began in 2015 but escalated rapidly this year. Inflation close to one million per cent has priced even the most basic goods out of reach for much of the population, while shortages in medicines and other supplies have made it difficult for Venezuelans to receive routine healthcare services. 

Project HOPE has had a team on the ground supporting local healthcare workers near the border city of Cucuta since September. Despite the hard work of medical professionals and volunteers, the sudden, massive increase in patients is stretching regional hospitals to their limits. 

Colombian authorities report the number of Venezuelan patients being treated at hospitals in Cucuta has increased 60% or more. Worse, because of the dearth of healthcare services in Venezuela, many are facing health complications that are difficult to treat – especially for expectant mothers. 

“Antenatal care has [all but] ceased in Venezuela,” Fletcher told us. “A large majority [of pregnant women entering Colombia from Venezuela] have not had antenatal checkups. Many are in their second or third trimester and haven’t gone through the type of regular checkups a woman would receive if the system was running properly.” 

By adding staff support to health outposts in the area, Project HOPE’s goal is to reduce the number of cases referred on to the area’s overburdened hospitals – in particular, Erasmo Meoz and Jorge Cristo Sahium. Service provision at the La Parada and Santa Barbara outposts has been strictly limited for months. 

“Bringing new GPs to the outposts will mean that an additional 32 consultations will be provided per health outpost per day,” Fletcher said. “This is significant because the health posts were turning away between 50 and 60 patients each day.”  

Project HOPE is also working on an additional cooperative agreement to deploy medical staff directly to the Erasmo Meoz Hospital, in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The agreement is expected to be finalized this month, allowing support staff to begin in the new year. 

HOPE is also working with the local government and representatives from UNICEF on a program to provide more robust mobile medical staff support through the Jorge Cristo Sahium hospital. By offering reinforcement to medical professionals on the frontlines of the crisis, Project HOPE aims to help resolve a situation that experts believe is the worst humanitarian disaster in the western hemisphere. 

About PROJECT HOPE 

Founded in 1958, Project HOPE is a leader in global health and humanitarian relief programs. An international non-profit organization, we are committed to transforming lives and uplifting communities by empowering health care workers to teach and deliver innovative, lifesaving solutions, every day and in times of crisis. With programs in 25 countries, we work at the epicenter of today’s greatest health challenges including infectious and noncommunicable diseases; disasters and health crises; maternal, neonatal and child health; and the policies that impact how health care is delivered.  Learn more at www.projecthope.org. 

  

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Geraldine Carroll
Project HOPE
540-257-3746
gcarroll@projecthope.org