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Press Release

Access to health care remains a challenge for Venezuelans in host countries: IRC warns

After providing health care for more than 108,000 people between January 2020 and February 2022 through its Venezuela Crisis Response, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) calls on the international community to address the barriers that Venezuelans still encounter to cover this basic need.

Marianne Menjivar, Director of the Venezuela Crisis Response at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), said:

“Life for Venezuelans continues to be extremely difficult even after they arrive in host communities. Covering their basic needs was already a challenge before leaving their country, but once they relocate–sometimes more than once–the situation is not precisely easier. 

“Venezuelan families face several and different obstacles when they try to recover and rebuild their lives elsewhere. While over 3.2 million have been hosted by neighboring countries–mainly Colombia, Peru and Ecuador–a combination of contrasting approaches towards immigration, overstretched national systems and the devastations of COVID-19 are putting pressure on their capacity to respond. Support and funding from the international community have been systemically and systematically insufficient and, as conflict and crises escalate around the world, the one putting Venezuelans at risk across the region is at high risk of becoming a forgotten crisis.

“We call on the international community to allocate enough funding that allows for the development of a comprehensive and timely response, based on the needs of the Venezuelan families in the places where they are arriving.”

Main challenges for Venezuelans to access health care in host countries:

  1. Colombia. Venezuelans in the country must have a regular status in order to access the public health system. Despite Colombia’s efforts to offer a regularization pathway through the Temporary Protection Status, less than half of the more than 1.8 million who have settled in the country had received the Temporary Protection Permit (PPT, for its acronym in Spanish) by March 2022. This means that many Venezuelans still need to wait before being able to access the public services–including health care–that the PPT grants. 
  2. Peru. Access to health services for Venezuelans in Peru is complex. They face important access barriers, including misinformation and disinformation. Even pregnant women and children under the age of five are affected by these issues, limiting their rightful access to free health care. For Venezuelans in Peru, health care and medicines are among the key priorities, as verified by the IRC, particularly for those who are still in transit or have recently arrived in the country. 
  3. Ecuador. Although health care is universal and free, according to a needs assessment conducted by the IRC in 2021, at least 38% of Venezuelan families considered they faced barriers to access services, mostly related to xenophobia and economic challenges. According to the IRC’s assessment, 58% of people mentioned that doctors had refused to assist them at least once and 24% said they could not afford medical care. 

Addressing Venezuelans’ urgent health needs

Since the beginning of its response to the Venezuela crisis, the IRC has implemented programs to provide families and individuals with access to health care, adapting to the new needs that the COVID-19 pandemic brought. From January 2020 to February 2022, the IRC’s health care programs in Colombia, Ecuador and through local partners in Venezuela, delivered services for more than 108,000 people related to:

  • Primary health. The IRC has worked directly and through local partners in community health centers and through mobile clinics to provide comprehensive care, including services like basic vaccination schedules.
  • Sexual and reproductive health. Services include prenatal and postnatal care; STDs diagnosis and treatment; family planning orientation and methods; and more. 
  • COVID-19 response. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the IRC has adapted its programming to respond, including the setup of a telemedicine call center in Colombia and the delivery of personal protective equipment–products that represent a high cost for people on the move–to reduce the risk of infections.

Additionally, the IRC has delivered economic support through multipurpose cash transfers, which allow Venezuelan families to decide how to cover their most relevant needs, including access to health services and medicines. Recently, the IRC expanded its response to Peru, where programs also include quality access to primary, sexual and reproductive health care. 

More on the IRC’s response to the Venezuela crisis

The IRC is on the ground delivering a collective response to support Venezuelans holistically—and timely—where they need it most: implementing programming with a mixed model of partnerships with local organizations and direct implementation in Colombia, Ecuador and now Peru, and providing support for vulnerable populations through local organizations in Venezuela.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.