3rd Regional Conference of Health Ministers at the Erasmo Meoz Hospital in Cúcuta
Press Bulletin No. 137, 2019
- Delegates from 10 countries in the region attend the 3rd Regional Conference of Health Ministers, which seeks actions to more effectively address Venezuelan migration.
Press conference at the 3rd Regional Conference of Health Ministers at the Erasmo Meoz Hospital in Cúcuta
Cúcuta (Norte de Santander). Ministers and delegates of the 10 countries present at the 3rd Regional Meeting of Ministers of Health underscored the importance of being aligned in the solidarity and humanitarian response to Venezuelan migration in order to provide the best care to this group of people, and effectively respond to the challenges posed by this diaspora to the health systems in the Americas.
Health ministers, country delegates, and their technical teams, arrived very early Monday morning to Cúcuta to take part in the conference, which seeks to draft and implement strategies and joint actions to help mitigate the impact of the massive arrival of Venezuelan citizens to the countries of the region.
Juan Pablo Uribe, Minister of Health and Social Protection of Colombia, highlighted the importance of the meeting, since, he said, it is the best way to design effective plans for a challenge we all face, which is neither exclusive to one country nor one region.
"We will analyze the situation of the care provided by our countries to the migratory phenomenon, seeking to continue putting it first, as a fundamental issue, on the regional and global agenda. The aim is to provide solidarity and humanitarian responses to our Venezuelan brothers and sisters," said Minister Uribe.
The regional conference was attended by Catalina Andramuño Zevallos, Minister of Public Health of Ecuador; Alex M. Azar, US Secretary of Health; Héctor Maceo Quezada, Deputy Minister of Collective Health of the Dominican Republic; Rosario Turner, Minister of Health of Panama; Marie Greta Roy Clement, Minister of Public Health and Population of Haiti; Julio Rolón Vicioso, Deputy Minister of Public Health of Paraguay; Mary Isaac, Minister of Health and Welness of Saint Lucia; Mario Sergio Kaler, Secretary of Health Promotion of Argentina, and Marcel Lebleu, Ambassador of Canada to Colombia.
After arriving in Cúcuta, government delegates and ministers visited the Erasmo Meoz hospital, to learn how Colombia has responded, with public health, to the migratory phenomenon.
This hospital, due to its proximity to the Venezuelan border and its high-complexity services, is one of the infirmaries offering the most care to that country's citizens. Figures reported in the assistance center indicate that in the last three years, it has provided a diversity of services to 33,000 Venezuelans, transients, on their way to the interior of Colombia, who have settled in Cúcuta, or who expressly come for medical attention.
Senior health sector officials in the region studied areas such as pediatric and adult emergencies, gyneco-obstetrics, a sensory stimulation room for children and a health care center, adapted by Usaid. They also talked with some Venezuelan patients to learn of their health status.
"On this visit, we have gained first-hand experience of what the response to an emergency–such as migration–means: the efforts made by the Erasmo Meoz in infrastructure, human talent, financial, and all kinds, in order to serve this population. It is important to recognize it and experience it directly, to acquire knowledge and good practices, and thus be able to help all our hospitals in the Americas in that effort," said the Minister of Health of Colombia.
Rosario Turner, Minister of Health of Panama, said, on the other hand, that the countries of the region cannot delay designing and implementing a support mechanism to provide assistance to migrants, and stressed that this conference will be fundamental in that task.
"We will therefore increase our capacity to respond to this public health and human rights challenge, with great social and economic impact for our countries. We have to understand that we must all face it to help the Venezuelans who leave their country seeking aid for their situation," Turner said.
In turn, Cristina Andramuño Zevallos, Minister of Public Health of Ecuador, spotlighted the walk through the Erasmo Meoz hospital and the working day with ministers and technical teams as extremely valuable to support and improve the actions taken by each country of the Americas in relation to the migratory phenomenon, and to design a joint plan.
"We are going to share our experiences of responding to this crisis" Andramuño noted. "We have implemented strategies and are guaranteeing health services to migrants; and here, we will formulate joint responses, to make decisions that will allow us to better face this situation, which is growing more every day."
After their visit to the Erasmo Meoz hospital, the ministers and delegates from the countries of the region stopped at the National Border Assistance Center (Cenaf), in Villa del Rosario, and subsequently at the Migrant Assistance Center and the Divina Providencia dining hall, where humanitarian services and care are provided to Venezuelan citizens.
They later continued to Puente de la Unidad, on the border, where the technical teams from each country, from the early hours, were reviewing the response by each nation to migrants, and the impact on health systems, seeking to structure actions to serve this population in the best way.
"What our hospitals and human talent have done is an example of a humanitarian and solidarity response, showing the best of our ability. We invite the international community to accompany us and help us make this a regional and global matter that deserves the effort of all countries," reiterated Minister Uribe.