Inside the Colombian ‘war hospital’ treating Venezuela’s pregnancy crisis

‘This hospital is a release valve for this social bomb in this district, and in the country as a whole.’

Sujey Ortega, 32, has nine children. Her youngest — the one she is breastfeeding — is four months old and was born at Colombia’s Erasmo Meoz hospital. They live in precarious conditions in a slum on the outskirts of Cúcuta. (Marta Martinez/TNH)

Total lack of contraceptives

Erasmo Meoz is not alone. Colombian healthcare centres spread along the border report double- and triple-digit increases in the number of babies being delivered from Venezuelan mothers in the past two years.

More high-risk pregnancies, more costs

Doctors and NGO representatives in Cúcuta voiced concern over malnutrition in pregnant Venezuelan women, and those who had recently given birth spoke of the lack of access to food in Venezuela. The UN has said this is causing serious health problems for both mothers and newborns.

Zuliman García, 26, left Guarico in central Venezuela eight months ago, when she got pregnant with her third child. She had heard about a baby who had died because of lack of oxygen and she got scared. (Marta Martinez/TNH)

Teen pregnancies

More than one in five of the Venezuelan women giving birth outside the country are, like Eli María, minors, according to OAS.

Growing xenophobia

If the flow of patients from Venezuela keeps growing without additional aid, Ramírez worries that Erasmo Meoz might not be able to attend properly to Colombians — the ones paying for the public healthcare system with their taxes. “What we spend on Venezuelans affects Colombians as well,” he said.

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