August 27, 2019
Secretary Azar Attends Health Ministerial Meeting in Cucuta, Colombia on the Venezuelan Humanitarian and Refugee Crisis
Yesterday, August 26, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar attended a ministerial meeting with fellow health ministers from the Americas region concerning the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and its effects on public health in the hemisphere. During the morning, the health ministers visited many sites along the border that are assisting and providing care to Venezuelans who face significant health challenges from infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases that have gone untreated because the failed Maduro regime has destroyed the nation’s healthcare system.
First, Secretary Azar and the other health ministers, hosted by Colombian Minister of Health Juan Pablo
Uribe, visited the Erasmo Meoz University Hospital, the region’s largest hospital, which is under extreme strain due to the influx of Venezuelan refugees in need of emergency medical services. The hospital has seen a dramatic increase in births, primarily among young pregnant women.
Next they visited the Simon Bolivar International Bridge, where thousands of Venezuelans cross on a daily basis to the National Border Service Center (CENAF). At the center, humanitarian partners assist with family reunifications and attend to basic medical and child protection needs including vaccinations and mental health intervention. The ministers saw this heartbreaking crisis firsthand as Venezuelans begged for help as they crossed the bridge.
They then went to Comedor Divina Providencia, a communal kitchen run by the Dioceses of Cucuta, which provides over 13,000 meals a day to mostly Venezuelan refugees. It also offers showers and toilets, psychological support, and information on human rights and asylum seekers’ rights. Next, Secretary Azar and the health ministers visited the CATM Shelter which provides a transitory space for Venezuelan migrants arriving in Colombia, providing overnight accommodation and vital services.
In the afternoon, the health ministerial concluded with a formal meeting that helped underscore the solidarity among the Americas’ health ministers to address the current situation and the future need to rebuild Venezuela’s healthcare system. During the meeting, Secretary Azar stressed that addressing the humanitarian crisis created by the failed Maduro regime is one of the Trump administration’s top global health priorities. The United States has provided more than $256 million to partner nations to address the crisis, including more than $130 million to Colombia, in addition to technical assistance provided to a number of countries around the region. The USNS Comfort has been off the shore of Colombia to provide care on the ship and support on the shore, provided by a multinational team that includes members of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
Secretary Azar urged the health ministers to look towards the future and work together to make plans for when the failed former Maduro regime is gone. The nations noted that they would work towards this goal at the next meeting in Panama where they will continue to discuss how to support the reestablishment of infrastructure, procure basic supplies and medication, and bring healthcare personnel home to Venezuela.
For more on Secretary Azar’s trip, please visit: https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2019/08/25/secretary-azar-participates-closing-ceremony-usns-comfort.html