MedGlobal Improves Access to Healthcare to Migrants in Colombia and Ecuador

MedGlobal Improves Access to Healthcare to Migrants in Colombia and Ecuador


September 5, 2023

MedGlobal Improves Access to Healthcare to Migrants in Colombia and Ecuador

The humanitarian NGO’s volunteers return from another successful mission in Ecuador and Colombia

The MedGlobal team conducted another resilience medical mission in Ecuador and Colombia. Six volunteers in Ecuador provided direct patient care to the host communities as well as to Venezuelan and other migrants living in Santa Elena province, Ecuador from August 19 to 26 and in the Cucuta region in Colombia from August 27 to September 2. 

“The migrant crisis is a reality not only in the US but also in many central and Latin American countries with much less resources. We are doing our part by improving access to dignified health and reducing the burden on the overwhelmed healthcare systems in Ecuador and Colombia. We are incredibly thankful for our volunteers as well as our local partners ,” said Dr. John Kahled, the co-founder of MedGlobal who oversees central and Latin America’s medical programs. 

MedGlobal began its health clinic in Colombia in 2018 by providing a multitude of healthcare services to Venezuelan migrants at the border, and in Ecuador in 2020, providing supplies, medications and medical training in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to emergency relief services at the border, MedGlobal is improving access to health care for vulnerable Colombians and displaced Venezuelans in the barrio of El Talento, and has provided 2,000 free health consultations so far. MedGlobal currently staff and support cross border activity in La Parada, Norte de Santander, Colombia and a soup kitchen serving 150 to 200 meals twice daily to needy clients and their families including children and elderly.

MedGlobal is an international medical NGO that provides emergency response, sustainable health programs, and supports resilient health systems in partnership with communities in disaster regions and low income countries.

Please contact Courtney Weigal at [email protected] or +1 708-692-0101 to arrange an interview with the MedGlobal team.


Roads, Roofing Tiles, and Brigades: A Medical Volunteer’s Reflection on Serving the El Talento Community

By Richard Scott, MD, medical volunteer of MedGlobal’s November 2021 short-term medical intervention in Colombia.

In joining the MedGlobal Brigade in Colombia, I was not sure what to expect. As a doctor who recently retired from family practice in Canada, I would be helping to provide primary medical care to refugees and migrants from Venezuela. I expected a refugee “camp” like the ones I had seen on the border between Myanmar and Thailand – enclosed settlements with fences, gates, and patrols keeping the refugees in the camp and out of a national economy. Because I knew millions of Venezuelans had fled on foot after the collapse of the Venezuelan economy and healthcare system, I expected such camps might be large.

I was pleasantly surprised to find no such camps. The Duque government’s open-door and rapid integration policies meant Venezuelan refugees were encouraged to move on from the border with the goal of integrating them into the broader national economy. Among the consequences of such policies, one result is that there are no prison-like refugee camps on the border.

Although Colombia has a sophisticated health care system, most access to it is private, either through direct payment or work-related health insurance. The poor have access only to the public components of the system, primarily for non-emergency care. As non-citizens, Venezuelan refugees have even less access.

The MedGlobal Brigade works with a relatively poor but open and developing community on the outskirts of Cúcuta called El Talento, which is home to about 5000 people. Approximately 70% of the community are settled Venezuelan refugees and the rest are internally displaced Colombians. Most of the residents have been living in El Talento for several years.

On the walk up from the main road into the community, apart from the friendly and enthusiastic welcome we received, what struck me first was how rutted the red dirt roads were, with deep gouges recently carved out by rains, passable on foot but barely passable on wheels. On our third day at the road leading into the community, a string “gate” appeared, held aloft by a ten-year-old boy near the entrance, jar in one hand extended for a toll. I asked him what the money was for and was told it was for “this” – pointing at a few truckloads of broken clay roof tiles that had been dumped at various sites along the way up the hill. He was collecting donations for the community to pay for the tiles.

The houses in El Talento were mostly of rudimentary brick or wood construction, some with poured concrete floors, many with just dirt floors. They had access to running water about once a week through a system of PVC pipes buried along the edges of the road that are prone to breaking. Residents stored water in pails or plastic barrels until the water was next available.

On a walk through the community to a house call with a community health worker and a translator, we helped a young woman carry a perambulator with her baby in it. The road in places was so rutted or steep she couldn’t roll it.

On the way home, we came upon a group of children, the oldest of them perhaps 12, vigorously and joyfully spreading a truckload of clay roof-tile gravel on the road along with a couple of adults who were supervising and breaking up the larger chunks of tile with a sledgehammer. The children were laughing and digging in happily. They were clearly having fun.

For me, the communal use of these discarded and broken tiles was emblematic of a low-tech, low-cost approach to a difficult community problem. It could be implemented immediately. People worked together to use available resources to make a difficult situation better.

This is also true of MedGlobal’s approach to providing primary care in El Talento. Working with community leaders, health workers, translators, local volunteers – and on our trip an optometrist, and several Venezuelan, Canadian and American physicians – MedGlobal has organized successive “brigades” to provide El Talento with primary care and diagnostic tools that they would not otherwise have access to. In this analogy, you might consider the members of the brigades a part of the community. Continuity of care is achieved through MedGlobal’s organization of successive brigades, and by referral to a permanent clinic of Colombian doctors supported by MedGlobal in nearby Cúcuta.

As a family doctor, I found my work much like the work I do in Canada, albeit in a very different setting and with a much more limited set of diagnostic or referral resources. Instead of a private office and exam room, I worked at a plastic table in a noisy communal area that was ordinarily used for church services and other community meetings. It was an open area under an awning on a slope with rows of concrete steps leading down to a stage at the bottom where we worked, plastic chairs on the steps serving as an open waiting area. Many of the problems I was asked about were like the ones I would see at home: hypertension, diabetes, musculoskeletal aches and pains, and many parents concerned about their children’s appetite, growth, and development. Starvation was not an issue but malnutrition and failure to thrive certainly were, compounded by a high prevalence of h. pylori infection, intestinal worms, and parasites.

I listened carefully and provided what care I could. When stumped, I consulted the Venezuelan doctors who knew the local epidemiology, needed no translator, and could work twice as fast as I could. The patients who came were invariably respectful and extremely grateful for what limited advice and care I could provide. I thought how fortunate I was to live in Canada, a country with a strong universal healthcare system where access to medical care does not depend on nationality, income, or employment status, and where I was able to have been well-paid for my part in providing such care.

Consider the brigades again by analogy with the roof tiles. Members of the brigades are the roof-tiles, a temporary, imperfect, but perhaps useful resource, brought in by the community from the outside to improve a challenging situation, in which inequality and poverty preclude access for the time being to a more permanent solution. On the other hand, by engaging with the members of El Talento, members of the brigades broaden our own definitions of community to include each other. If I can see myself in this way as part of a broader community there is hope and some fun in also being a fragment of a roof-tile.

Care for Los Caminantes: MedGlobal’s work at Los Patios Medical Clinic

By Emma Ackerman, MedGlobal Communications & Advocacy Intern

The Venezuelan migration crisis is the largest external displacement crisis in South America, and the second largest in the world. Since 2015, an estimated 5.6 million Venezuelan people, 10% of the total population, have fled the country. These Venezuelan migrants are known as “Los Caminantes”, or “the walkers,” as most travel distances of up to 3,500 km on their route to neighboring countries almost entirely on foot. According to a special representative of the UNHCR, “Never in our history in Latin America have we faced such movement of people out of a country that was one of the richest in the region and a country that is not at war.”

Venezuela currently faces a myriad of humanitarian disasters involving the joint failure of political, economic, and healthcare systems on all levels. Venezuela’s already unstable economy has been crippled by COVID-19 and has seen a 3,012% inflation increase in 2021. Purchasing power of individual households has also continued to plunge. In 2021, the monthly minimum wage in Venezuela could purchase under 1% of the basic food basket in comparison to October 2020. Intersecting crises drive migratory flows from Venezuela to surrounding Latin American countries. As of December 2020, Colombia hosts 1.8 million displaced Venezuelans, more than any other country in South America. At least 49% are women. 

Alongside economic collapse, the healthcare system has taken severe blows. It is difficult to quantify the impact of the Venezuelan economic crisis on public health, since no official statistics from the Venezuelan Ministry of Health have been published since 2016. However, available data suggests that both infant and maternal mortality have increased significantly since 2016 as availability of essential medications has severely decreased. Basic services such as food supply and clean water have also collapsed, as 59% of homes in Venezuela are unable to access nutritious foods, and 86% lack reliable access to clean water. Widespread food insecurity has contributed to the prevalence of acute malnutrition, a health issue most severely impacting Venezuelan children. In a recent “Monitoring of Acute Malnutrition and Family Food Security” report, it was found that 73% of cases of malnutrition were found in children under the age of five. Malnutrition has stunted an entire generation of Venezuelan children’s growth by 8-10 cm, and will impact their future cognitive development and emotional health. Internal unrest and systematic violations of human rights have also driven migration and have harmed the health of Venezuelan people. 

COVID-19 has also brought many closures of land borders and formal migration routes commonly used by los caminantes. These route closures have driven many to seek out informal, more dangerous paths to nearby countries, many of which are controlled by armed groups and human traffickers. Reports indicate that anywhere from 1,800 to 2,000 people have been leaving Venezuela daily over the last three months.

Dangerous environmental conditions and prevalence of respiratory diseases, insect borne diseases, waterborne diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, and hypothermia makes migration out of Venezuela dangerous and potentially deadly for all. Clean water, sanitation services, and hygiene products are all extremely difficult to come by. Vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and children are most likely to experience negative health outcomes and even death along these routes. Gender-based violence and grave violations against children are extremely common along informal migration routes. According to an International Crisis Group report from December, murder, forced sex work & sex trafficking, child sexual assualt, armed robbery, and child recruitment into armed groups have been well documented along the Venezuela-Colombia border. Robbery and transportation scams are also quite common, and families often lose their entire life savings after being robbed and left to walk or beg for rides along the migration route. Why do so many take the risk when the dangers are known? According to Francisco Rivas, it is because:

 “Hunger is stronger than border policy. It’s stronger than fear of COVID, too. These people have no choice, and neither do I. If I don’t cross, my family doesn’t eat.” 

In response to the many needs of los caminantes on routes from Venezuela to Colombia, the Colombian government has established way stations and health centers along the north-south route most commonly taken by los caminantes. MedGlobal was asked by the Colombian government to run the medical clinic supporting the Los Patios Migration Station (CASLP) in Los Patios, Norte de Santander, alongside a partner NGO. The medical clinic at Los Patios opened on April 15, 2021, and is the first health center on the los caminantes route passing through eastern Colombia to Bogota. Los Patios is the official “center of sanitary and transitory support to the migrants,” and offers a myriad of medical and health services coordinated by MedGlobal. These services include:

  • Medical evaluation and care
  • Dispensation of basic medication
  • Referral to hospital if needed
  • Evaluation and staging of pregnancy for pregnant women in the camp/ obstetrical services
  • Mental health screenings 
  • Food and kitchen access
  • Wifi access
  • Hygiene kits and WASH facilities
  • Legal and social services
  • Rapid COVID-19 testing
  • COVID-19 contact tracing services

Los Patios receives mainly women and children, especially children travelling alone. MedGlobal Colombia staff members and medical volunteers provide continuous care for all in need and fill many existing gaps in health care services. According to Colombia Program Manager Angela Restrepo:

“Since April, we have become vital for health operations at camp. We are the only ones who are providing consultations from Monday to Friday and two Saturdays per month. We also have a record of almost 400 medical consultations, 400 prescriptions dispensed, and about 1,000 COVID-1919 test services provided to the population entering into the camp.”

In February 2021, the Colombian government granted temporary protective status (TPS) to 1.7 million Venezuelans living in Colombia, making great strides toward ensuring protection and access to health care for this displaced population. This is especially critical, as los caminantes have often been without access to much-needed health care even upon reaching Colombia. Approximately 50% of patient consultations and medical services available to los caminantes are offered by NGOs such as MedGlobal. It is critical to continue supporting los caminantes – through the promotion of their rights, through global support for this protracted humanitarian emergency, and through access to comprehensive health care. 

Meet Alexandra, Nurse Manager at our Comuneros Clinic in Cúcuta, Colombia

On the Colombian side of the major border crossing with Venezuela, in the Norte de Santander region, MedGlobal supports the only primary health clinic dedicated to the full primary health needs of displaced Venezuelans. At the Comuneros Clinic, our patients are overwhelmingly expectant mothers and children. Alexandra is one of two nurses supported by MedGlobal at the Comuneros Clinic.

Tell us about yourself – where are you from, what are some activities you enjoy, and how did you come to work for MedGlobal? (¿Cuéntenos de usted – de donde es? ¿Qué actividades le gustan y cuales son las cosas que son importantes para usted?)

I am Cucuteña. I was born and raised in Cúcuta and I studied in San José de Cúcuta. I really enjoy reading science fiction books and novels, and I think it is important to work out, eat well, be updated with the news and share time with the family. My work with MedGlobal began when I was contacted through IPS Medcare. They were looking for someone who had experience in other NGOs, in my case it was with the Colombian Red Cross, that’s how I got to work and know MedGlobal.

Yo soy cucuteña, nacida, criada y estudiada en Cúcuta. Me gusta mucho leer libros de ciencia ficción y novelas también considero que es importante hacer ejercicio, alimentarse bien, estar actualizado con noticias y compartir tiempo en familia. Mi trabajo con MedGlobal comenzó cuando fui contactada a través de la IPS Medcare. Buscaban alguien que tuviera experiencia en otras ONG´s, en mi caso fue con la cruz roja, así llegué a trabajar y conocer a MedGlobal.

In Cúcuta, how are people doing with the COVID-19 pandemic? (Cuéntanos de Cúcuta, ¿cómo se manejan la gente con la pandemia de COVID-19?)

At the beginning of the pandemic, people were confined and there was fear of contracting the disease. People took care of themselves with their masks, hand washing, and use of sanitizer. However, Cúcuta is a small, low-industry city, so the situation with the economy and employment forced many people to stop working, which generated a considerable increase in infections. Many people do not have enough resources to stay at home, and many do not have formal employment.

Al principio de la pandemia la gente guardó la cuarentena, existía miedo de contraer la enfermedad, las personas se cuidaban con sus tapabocas y lavado de manos, uso de alcohol. Sin embargo, Cúcuta al ser una ciudad pequeña y con poca industria la situación económica y de empleo forzó a muchas personas a comenzar a salir, lo que generó un aumento considerable de los contagios. Muchas personas no tienen los suficientes recursos para mantenerse en casa y muchos no cuentan con empleo formal.

What are the greatest needs facing patients that come to the clinic? (¿Cuáles son las necesidades más urgentes de la población migrante que busca servicios en la clínica?)

In my opinion, getting a stable job that will ensure them to cover all future needs. Many patients who are unemployed have a chronic disease like cancer and don’t receive any real help, since they are not insured by the Colombian health system. [Additionally] access to good nutrition that follows all the nutritional parameters, since many patients at the clinic eat poorly. 

En mi opinión conseguir un trabajo estable que les permita cubrir todas las necesidades a futuro, muchas personas que no cuentan con trabajo y tiene una enfermedad crónica como el cáncer realmente no tienen ni reciben ningún tipo de ayuda real, puesto que no están asegurados por el sistema de salud Colombiano. Acceder a una buena alimentación que siga todos los parámetros nutricionales, puesto que muchos de los que van a la clínica se alimentan deficientemente.

You also had a chance to work as a nurse at the Francisco de Paula Santander Bridge, providing first-contact care to migrants before the borders were closed in Colombia in March. What is your impression of the situation at the border now? (Antes de la cerrada de las fronteras en Colombia, usted tenía la oportunidad de trabajar como enfermera en el Puente Internacional Francisco de Paula Santander. ¿Que impresión tienes de la frontera con Venezuela ahora?)

I worked on the Francisco de Paula Santander International Bridge until the end of March. Now that the border is closed, I believe humanitarian channels should continue to provide first aid and primary health assistance to people who are constantly moving from Venezuela to Colombia, and vice versa. 

Trabajé en el puente Internacional Francisco de Paula Santander hasta finales de marzo, ahora que la frontera está cerrada considero que los canales humanitarios deben seguir prestando servicios de primera asistencia y ayuda a las personas que están en constante movimiento desde Venezuela a Colombia y viceversa.

What are your wishes for MedGlobal’s work in Colombia? (¿Cuales son los deseos que tiene para el trabajo de MedGlobal en Colombia?)

MedGlobal is one of the few NGOs that provides real and complete care to migrants. I hope that the volunteers can continue to come, many of them are top professionals with experience in the treatment of many diseases and they have already had an enormous impact on the lives of the people they have cared for. I hope this process [governments permitting volunteers to travel internationally] can be improved. 

MedGlobal es una de las pocas ONG´s que brindan real y completa atención a los migrantes, espero que los voluntarios puedan seguir viniendo muchos de ellos tienen perfiles profesionales de alto nivel, experiencia en el tratamiento de muchas enfermedades y han tenido un enorme impacto en la vida de las personas a las que han atendido, ojala se pueda mejorar este proceso.

Field Operations Update for October 2020

Each month, MedGlobal publishes a monthly Field Operation Update, highlighting our humanitarian and health programs around the world. MedGlobal supports healthcare in Bangladesh, Colombia, Ecuador, Gaza, Greece, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, and has been contributing to the COVID-19 response in the United States. These monthly blog posts provide a snapshot of some of our most notable program updates from the past month. For more frequent updates, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. 


Nurse in Colombia at Tienditas shelter

This past month, MedGlobal extended support for two nurses working at a shelter at Tienditas Bridge on the border of Venezuela and Colombia. These nurses are providing free medical care to Venezuelans who are stuck at the border, waiting to return to Venezuela due to deteriorating conditions in Colombia. Particularly since COVID-19 reached the country, the Colombian health system has been overwhelmed and many of the 1.8 million displaced Venezuelans in the country do not have access to health services. The lockdowns and economic downturn caused by COVID-19 have also made life for migrants in Colombia increasingly difficult. Thousands of Venezuelans are now attempting to return home, but prospects for returnees, especially in terms of access to healthcare, remain grim. 


The spike of COVID-19 cases in Gaza has continued into October. MedGlobal, in partnership with Rahma Worldwide, provided 6,000 COVID-19 test kits and a shipment of medications for chronic diseases to hospitals in Gaza. This aid is crucial for supporting the fragile and under-resourced health sector that suffers from chronic shortages of medications and supplies. Testing capacity has also remained an urgent issue in Gaza, where hospitals rely on donations of testing kits from humanitarian organizations and UN agencies to meet needs. Gaza is home to two million Palestinians, nearly 80% of whom rely on humanitarian assistance and live in overcrowded areas with poor living conditions.


Following the devastating explosion of Beirut’s port, MedGlobal launched an emergency response in Beirut to provide support to overwhelmed health facilities facing increased levels of medical need. MedGlobal partnered with United Hands Relief and Development to provide essential medical equipment and supplies to the LAU Medical Center-Rizk Hospital in Beirut. The medical container included more than 55,000 medications and 20,000 pieces of equipment and supplies, including critically-need PPE to protect health staff during the pandemic. This support will help serve nearly 10,000 people in Lebanon.


MedGlobal and the Sudanese American Physician Association (SAPA) are moving forward together to build an oxygen generator and oxygen filling station at Nyala Teaching Hospital in South Darfur. MedGlobal and SAPA will also provide 20 oxygen cylinders. The project will be managed by the South Darfur Ministry of Health which will provide long-term maintenance for the generator. This support will play a role in building the hospital’s capacity to treat patients with extreme COVID-19 symptoms or other respiratory illnesses in an extremely underserved community. MedGlobal has previously supported 8 hospitals throughout Sudan with PPE and medical equipment, but this is the first project MedGlobal has launched in the Darfur region.


MedGlobal distributed PPE, medical supplies, and equipment to Al Mokha Isolation Center in Taiz governorate. This support follows MedGlobal’s work to establish the isolation unit which provides vital healthcare to one of the area’s most vulnerable populations. Prior to MedGlobal’s involvement, there were no functioning hospitals screening for COVID-19 in Al Mokha. All suspected and confirmed cases were referred to Aden or Taiz City, a journey of 4 to 5 hours, forcing many people with COVID-19 to remain at home as their health deteriorated. The recent distribution to Al Mokha Isolation Center included 24 beds, 19 oxygen cylinders, diagnostic equipment, thousands of items of PPE, and other requested medical supplies. In Yemen, only half of all medical facilities are fully functioning, making health support more critical than ever.

3 years ago, MedGlobal was born

By Dr. Zaher Sahloul, MedGlobal President and Co-Founder

Three years ago, I was in Yemen with three other medical volunteers, providing internal medicine and pediatrics services to people suffering from the effects of war and famine. MedGlobal had just been formed. In between medical consultations, we talked about the goals for the future of our organization, dedicated to providing innovative healthcare to crisis-affected and low-resource areas.

But I could have never predicted how many people we would reach in just three years.

  • In the last three years, we have:
  • Served more than 204,700 patients all around the world.
  • Provided local health facilities with more than $16.2 million in medical supplies, equipment, and assistance.
  • Mobilized 455 health volunteers from 26 countries to provide their skills in medical trainings and consultations for areas most in need.
  • Expanded our operations to serve the most vulnerable communities in 14 countries: Bangladesh, Colombia, Ecuador, Gaza, Greece, Kurdistan in Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Syria, the United States, Venezuela, and Yemen.

Your support has made this possible.

I also never could have predicted this difficult moment in time – six months into a global pandemic, seeing record daily increases in COVID-19. Our countries of operation have been hit with new and ongoing crises: a devastating fire on Lesvos Island, Greece, just burned the Moria refugee camp to the ground; the explosion in Beirut created a new humanitarian emergency; Sudan and Bangladesh are experiencing record-breaking floods; and the protracted conflicts in Syria and Yemen have led to unthinkable suffering. We still have a lot of work to do.

Every day, however, I am inspired by you – my health colleagues, community members, and supporters from around the world. You remind me that our organization’s mission is possible: to create a world without healthcare disparity.

Your support is the reason our services and health programs have grown so quickly in just three years – imagine what we can do together in the next three. Join us in supporting critical and innovative health services.

Thank you for being part of the MedGlobal community.

In solidarity,

Dr. Zaher Sahloul
MedGlobal President and Co-Founder

Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Dr. Johnstone

Earlier this year, Dr. Anna Johnstone volunteered at the MedGlobal clinic in Cucuta, Colombia and at the Colombia Brigade to El Talento. As we celebrate the 1-year anniversary of the Cucuta clinic, we are proud to highlight Dr. Johnstone as a part of our diverse team making a difference all over the world!

Where are you located and what is your profession?
I currently work at the Balfour Hospital in Orkney, which is a group of islands off the North coast of Scotland. I work as a locum junior doctor, covering all acute services, including the emergency department, acute medical and surgical team, and the high dependency unit.

If you could witness any event of the past, present, or future, what would it be?
In the current climate with COVID-19, I think the main event that I am hoping to witness is the release of a successful and effective vaccine programme for COVID-19! Let’s hope it’s not too far in the future!

How would your friends describe you?
I would hope they would say I am driven in my work, and also take time for my friendships and social life. I have often been described as a very direct person – which at times I am not sure if that is a good thing!

Who inspires you, both professionally and personally?
My grandparents were both doctors and I think they are big inspirations for me. My granny went to medical school in the 1930s when less than 30% of medical school graduates were women. They both worked in Orkney as general practitioners and looked after their community. They also had a never ending list of visitors in their house, and many infamous parties. Their balance of care for the community and great social lives is something I would like to achieve!

What countries have you volunteered in?
I have done a trip with MedGlobal to Colombia. I volunteered in Ethiopia with a facial surgical charity called Project Harar. I volunteered in Madagascar with a marine conservation charity called Blue Ventures. 

Why do you volunteer?
I have been given the most amazing opportunity through training as a doctor to be able to help people. Volunteering allows me to use this training to support people in situations where they would otherwise have no access. It also develops my own learning and I feel improves my care for patients both here in Scotland, and in my volunteering role. 

It also gives me the opportunity to travel around the world, and meet like-minded people. 

Which is your most memorable moment on a MedGlobal trip?
My trip to Colombia in February 2020 was my first trip with MedGlobal and it was fantastic. I learnt so much from the team I was working with, and the care we were able to provide for the patients was great. 

After volunteering, how has your perception of the Global Health crises changed?
I think the main thing that I have taken from my short global health career is that people don’t need anything fancy or glamorous with their medical care. They need their blood pressure to be checked, they need counseling on family planning, and they need someone to talk to about their anxiety. By providing a general and basic level of care, you are taking one step towards helping them get through the rest of their lives, which is invariably difficult and often out of both their and your control.

Thank you for being a part of the MedGlobal community, Dr. Johnstone! 

Colombia Brigade: March 2020

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. 

Press Release: MedGlobal Calls for Foreign Medical Doctors to be Granted Licenses to Help in COVID-19 Response

Washington, DC – MedGlobal thanks Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey for signing Executive Order No. 112 which grants temporary U.S. licenses to doctors who are licensed and in good standing in foreign countries. 

This Executive Order for New Jersey is a critical step in enabling foreign medical professionals to assist in the urgent and extensive response to COVID-19 in the United States. As of April 1, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 186,101 cases and 3,603 deaths from the virus in the U.S. 

MedGlobal urges all governors to authorize similar executive orders, granting temporary US medical licenses to doctors who are licensed in foreign countries. 

“During times of disasters, it is expected that policy makers modify public policies in order to save more lives. Now, with the U.S. at the epicenter of this global pandemic, we are suffering from a shortage of medical professionals that may get even worse as more patients and healthcare workers get exposed to or infected with COVID-19,” said Dr. Zaher Sahloul, President of MedGlobal. “It is vital that US-based foreign doctors (IMGs) – who are able to use their skills to save lives – are granted licenses to practice medicine across the U.S. during this dangerous pandemic.” 

MedGlobal provides free healthcare and life-saving medication to vulnerable communities across the world, including Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, displaced Venezuelan in Colombia, refugees in Greece, and victims of wars in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Gaza. These communities are bracing for a catastrophic COVID-19 outbreak. MedGlobal is scaling up its work during this time with an international COVID-19 response, including providing medical supplies, ventilators, medical technology for Intensive Care Units, and personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers in Gaza, Syria, Yemen, Bangladesh, and beyond. Our volunteers and local staff are honored to serve these communities, and we implore all U.S. governors to grant foreign doctors the ability to offer the same care and solidarity to COVID-19 patients here in the U.S. 

MedGlobal‌ ‌Calls‌ ‌For‌ ‌Urgent‌ ‌COVID-19‌ ‌Response‌ ‌for‌ ‌Refugees‌ ‌and‌ ‌Displaced‌ ‌Persons‌

March 20, 2020

In the midst of the deadly global COVID-19 pandemic, MedGlobal urges immediate and urgent action to support refugees, displaced persons, and the most vulnerable communities. MedGlobal warns of the potential for a catastrophic impact of the dangerous virus on refugees and other vulnerable communities, and commits itself to adapting programs in the most effective ways to meet their needs. 

“While the global health community and countries are busy with curbing the spread of COVID-19, let us not forget the refugees and the displaced,” said Dr. Zaher Sahloul, President and Co-founder of MedGlobal. “It is our humanitarian duty, and the right thing to do, to prevent catastrophic morbidity and mortality in a population that is unable to deal with the pandemic effectively.”

There are over 70 million refugees and forcibly displaced persons in the world. They will be the hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, as many are confined to cramped environments like overcrowded camps or communities in urban areas where disease can rapidly spread. The majority do not have access to basic preventive measures like clean water, soap, cleaning solutions, sufficient sanitation facilities, or the ability to social distance or self-isolate. Refugees and displaced persons are made even more vulnerable by the lack of access to testing, limited access to sufficient medical care like Intensive Care Units in case they contract COVID-19, and damaged or destroyed health infrastructure as a result of conflict. These conditions could easily facilitate the rapid spread of COVID-19, with a mortality rate predicted to be much higher than the general population. 

MedGlobal provides free healthcare and life-saving medication to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, displaced Venezuelan in Colombia, and refugees in Greece, in addition to local communities in Pakistan and victims of wars in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Gaza. These communities are bracing for a catastrophic COVID-19 outbreak. 

The MedGlobal team is acting with urgency to support brave frontline health workers and vulnerable communities during this COVID-19 pandemic. To date, our team has taken the following steps to adapt our operations and respond to COVID-19:

  1. Emergency Needs Assessments: We are working with our teams and partners in Bangladesh, Colombia, Greece, Pakistan, Yemen, Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria to compile emergency needs assessments to understand the current situation locally and respond in the most effective way for each setting. 
  2. Emergency Supplies and Triage Programs: Based on local needs, we are ramping up provision of medical supplies to support local health workers and communities, including soap, washing units, personal hygiene kits, and cleaning solutions; medications, ventilators, oxygen masks, and medical technology for Intensive Care Units; Protective Personal Equipment (PPE) including masks, gowns, gloves and eye shields. With top experts around the world, we are developing emergency triage programs in preparation for potential COVID-19 outbreaks. 
  3. New Prevention Measures for our Clinics: Our full-time clinics in Bangladesh and Colombia continue to function, with new infection control and prevention measures implemented in coordination with partners. 
  4. Clinical Resources: We are designing resources pertaining to COVID-19 tailored specifically to our field operations, including recommendations on infection control and prevention based on CDC, WHO and UNHCR data; clinical management of suspected cases; and emergency planning in the case of an outbreak.
  5. Educational Online Programs: We are planning webinars and educational programs for the general public, which aim to present the potential impact COVID-19 may have on refugee communities. Our first webinar on COVID-19 is Tuesday, March 24 from 9am-11am CST. 
  6. Mental Health Response: We are designing a mental health plan in the context of COVID-19, including a webinar for all staff wellbeing on coping with the COVID-19 threat and a webinar for field staff on how to support patients’ mental health during the pandemic.

MedGlobal will continue to prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized, primarily communities of refugees, displaced persons, and others facing crises. We will continue to work with brave health workers across the globe to ensure that we are able to reach and support these communities, who must not be forgotten during this global pandemic. 

Join us in supporting health workers on the front lines, helping vulnerable communities preparing for COVID-19 outbreaks.


This Christmas, make a gift of health care to Venezuelan refugees

The Venezuelan refugee exodus is the worst humanitarian crisis in the southern hemisphere, second only to the Syrian catastrophe. Fifteen percent of the population – around 3.5 million people – have left the country, and it is estimated that another million or more will leave in 2020 in order to escape starvation, lack of healthcare, disease, and violence. Those crossing the border are malnourished, sick, and in desperate need.

MedGlobal has been at ground zero in Cucuta, Colombia, since April 2019 working to save lives. In 2020, with your support, MedGlobal will be able to continue its primary care services, expand its partnerships, and save more lives.

Yesmith Garay, the director of our clinic, has a warmth and management style that makes everything happen. She is assisted by Camila Perez, a superstar nurse, who runs the clinic like a well-oiled machine. Camila is compassionate and oversees more than 100 patients coming through the clinic every day. There are multiple staff members, including a dental hygienist, administrative assistants, and several Colombian doctors. 

MedGlobal medical volunteers Dr. Ahmad Yousaf and Dr. Farashin Silevany traveled from the United States to treat refugees like Maria and her children, Leonel and Gelyanys, who fled Venezuela to escape starvation.

At our clinic, we are treating over 600 patients a week and we need your help to continue providing life-saving care.

This Christmas, give the gift of health care to Venezuelan refugees

  • $20 to provide prenatal care to an expectant mother. Support prenatal care for 10 mothers by donating $200.
  • $10 to provide health care to a child. Help 10 children by donating $100.
  • $10 to provide life-saving medication for one patient. Help 10 patients by donating $100.

Your generous donation will help save the lives of Venezuelan refugees. Make a difference today.


MedGlobal Volunteer Opportunities: Clinic serving Venezuelan refugees in Colombia in need of volunteers for 2020

Marked by political repression, hyperinflation, food and medicine shortages, the crisis in Venezuela continues, unabated after five years of conflict. Once the richest country in the region, Venezuela is now teetering on total collapse. 

The ongoing humanitarian crisis is the largest ever seen in Latin America and, after the Syrian crisis, is the largest in the world. It is estimated that 15% of the population has already left and another one million, or more, are expected to leave in 2020. 

The majority of Venezuelans begin their exodus into Colombia, where MedGlobal’s clinic has been operating in Cucuta, Norte Santander since April 2019. This area is ground zero for the Venezuelan exodus. 

We have established the major first encounter primary care clinic for refugees in the region. We also serve itinerant populations of caminantes (walkers) and recent arrivals at various comedors (soup kitchens).

Our clinic is looking for primary care volunteers, including specialists in family practice, pediatrics, internists, and gynecologists, to begin in February 2020. One week is the minimum stay, however, longer is preferred. Although fluency in the Spanish language is a benefit, it is not necessary.

If you are interested in volunteering, please contact [email protected]. If you have any questions about the deployment you can contact Dr. John Kahler at [email protected].