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Medical Teams International acquired a $350,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

COURTESY PHOTO: SARAH RAWLINS - Stefanie, a Venezuelan migrant living in Colombia, holds her 6-month-old baby outside of her makeshift home near Barranquilla. Medical Teams International hopes to help migrants like Stefanie with a new grant.

A nonprofit organization in Tigard is getting major funding to help Venezuelan migrants in Colombia.

Medical Teams International received a $350,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It will increase access to primary healthcare services, including maternal and child healthcare for 120,000 Venezuelan migrants in Santa Marta, Colombia, near the Venezuelan border.

"The scale of what is happening in Venezuela is considered to be the largest humanitarian crisis in the world today," said Martha Holley Newsome, Medical Teams International's president and chief executive officer. "The situation is dire — an estimated 60% of medical assistance has been lost, with recent indicators of maternal mortality at an increase of 65%. Mothers are dying unnecessarily without access to care."

Those displaced from Venezuela represent more people than the combined number who have fled from strife-riven South Sudan and Myanmar, said Holley.

Venezuela's economic and political crisis began years ago and has now reached a state of hyperinflation due to chronic resource shortages.

By the end of last year, access to affordable food and medical care was nearly impossible for millions of people, according to Medical Teams International.

"Venezuelans report that the collapse of the economy has led to them being unable to meet their own very basic needs such as food, water and medicine," said Medical Teams humanitarian advisor Rachel Rigby. "In Colombia, we're seeing people arriving with nothing, having had to use what little resources they had to pay to illegally cross the border."

The nonprofit will support the Colombian government by providing care for Venezuelan migrants and vulnerable Colombians. The program is focused on caring for pregnant and lactating women and young children, as well as ensuring vulnerable communities have access to lifesaving medical care.

The grant will also help implement a Community Health Worker program to train volunteers to create social health behavior changes with their communities, map and monitor vulnerable populations, and provide referrals to local health facilities.

"Without Medical Teams' help, these women would not receive any prenatal care and would have to find a clinic to deliver their baby in, while in labor," Rigby said. "Young children are suffering from preventable and treatable illnesses, so our community health work program alongside targeted care is allowing families to learn how to prevent disease."

Services for those in need will begin in March.


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