This March, MedGlobal conducted its first large-scale medical brigade in Cúcuta, Colombia, a border city that has become an epicenter of Venezuelan migration. As Colombia braced for the arrival of COVID-19, MedGlobal volunteers provided basic medical care to nearly 1,500 venezuelan refugees and internally displaced Colombians living on the outskirts of Cúcuta. This medical brigade was an extension of MedGlobal’s ongoing work in Colombia which includes an outpatient clinic serving Venezuelan refugees and a first contact clinic at the Francisco de Paula Santander International Bridge, (temporarily closed since March 14th).
Despite numerous challenges including a reduced number of volunteers (due to international travel restrictions), and rapidly changing infection control protocols, MedGlobal was still able to provide essential health services to the residents of El Talento. The El Talento community is home to approximately 5,000 individuals, a mix of internally displaced Colombians, Venezuelan refugees, and Colombian returnees. The community lacks access to basic services including clean water, healthcare, and education. MedGlobal’s week-long medical brigade marked the first time that medical care was brought to the residents of El Talento.
MedGlobal worked in partnership with the Dr. Luke Foundation, led by Dr. Argenis Mena, and community leaders from El Talento, including Pastor John Peña from the Iglesia Centro Cristiano (Central Christian Church). As this was our first medical brigade in Cúcuta, these partnerships were essential to the success of this outreach.
Preparing for COVID-19 was certainly one of the greatest challenges throughout this brigade. It required ongoing coordination with the Ministry of Health, ensuring access to personal protective equipment for medical volunteers, and working closely with community leaders in El Talento to help enforce physical distance between patients and provide community education. During the brigade, MedGlobal relied on the expertise of its volunteers including Dr. Peter Houck, a physician and epidemiologist, who oversaw safety measures during the brigade.
MedGlobal is grateful for funding from the LDS Foundation and individual donors who have made this work possible. We plan to continue to support the healthcare needs of El Talento residents by providing ongoing medical care and referrals in addition to future medical brigades once Colombia’s borders reopen.