Venezuelan migrants housed in temporary shelters in La Guajira, just across the border in northeastern Colombia, are grappling with two debilitating forces: Covid-19 and lack of clean water, according to the NGO network HelpAge International.
“We are hugely concerned about COVID-19 breaking out in La Guajira,” said Marcela Bustamante, a regional representative at HelpAge, in a statement. “The health services were already buckling under the strain caused by the large numbers of people living in desperate circumstances. If COVID-19 takes hold, it will be chaos and potentially lead to a colossal loss of lives.”
Due to crowded conditions, isolation is not an option for the more than 7,000 people living in shelters in La Guajira who are also dealing with government restrictions on movement.
A survey conducted by HelpAge in January highlighted that 84 percent of older migrants do not have handwashing stations and 78 percent do not have access to safe drinking water. Nearly 5,000 migrants in the area are elderly.
After the Covid-19 outbreak, these conditions have not changed. Of the 395 cases of the disease reported in La Guajira, 18 have been fatal. According to HelpAge, without proper water or sanitation facilities, the pandemic disease could spread quickly.