ARAUCA, Colombia – The Arauca pier is already busy before sunrise. Hundreds of people arrive in boats from Venezuela to get medical attention, and to be sure they do, they must be among the earliest to stand in the long lines that quickly begin to form.
One of the first buildings they come across in the city, which is the capital of Arauca province and is only separated from Venezuela by the swiftly flowing Arauca River, is that of the Colombian Red Cross.
From 4:00 am, when the humidity and heat of the area are not yet so fierce, dozens of people, many with babies in their arms, line up outside the medical center waiting for the doors to open at 7:00 am with hopes of being among the 120 to be assigned their turn.
Some have cardiac problems, others suffer respiratory illnesses and there are also pregnant women who, despite their pain, know that this is the only way to get good medical care.
One of them was Tatiana Lopez, who traveled from the state of Guarico in central Venezuela to be treated for the painful neuritis she suffers in one arm.
“Thank God they looked after me well. The doctor who saw me is an excellent person who actually listened to me. He told me to tell him all I was suffering and I told him everything,” Lopez told EFE after her doctor’s visit.
From her home, it took the woman 10 hours to reach El Amparo, the Venezuelan town on the other side of the Arauca River, and from where she took a boat over to the Colombian city.
Despite the long trip, the woman preferred to go to Arauca than see a doctor in her native land because, besides the fact that her son lives here, the state of clinics in her own country is “super bad.”
“The hospitals are awful, there are no medicines, no remedies. You can’t even find a parasite cleanse in Venezuela,” she said.
The Red Cross – the local coordinator of Arauca’s emergency-call project, Carlos Alberto Prada, told EFE – offers the services of general medicine, psychology and an infirmary, which mainly attend Venezuelan migrants and Colombians returning from that country.
“The chief characteristic of the Venezuelan population that we serve is that it is pendular, since on the Venezuelan side they have access to public services. Then they come to the Colombian side for health services,” Prada said.
In its facilities, financed by donations from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the institution has a dispensary of medicines and a storeroom of cleansing equipment for those who need such products as part of a program to promote healthy living.
According to figures of Colombia Migration, as of June 20 there were 42,890 living in Arauca province of the almost 1.4 million Venezuelans who had settled in the country, and of whom 24,989 live in the regional capital.
One of those is Clairey Tanales, who has been living in Arauca for almost three years and has not gone back to Venezuela because she has no money to do so and fears that if she left, something could happened to her children.
“I’m not going anywhere because here I’m closer (to Venezuela) and I would only have to cross the river,” said the woman, who previously lived over 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from Arauca in the Venezuelan state of Anzoategui.
Tanales is aware that the situation in which many Venezuelans are surviving in Arauca is critical, so she tries to take full advantage of the available health services, chiefly for one of her children who suffers from asthma.
And so the days go by in Arauca, where at sunset the boats return to Venezuela full of passengers, many of whom were able to receive medical care as they wait for the situation in their own country to change.
“I know things will get better in Venezuela, this won’t go on for much longer,” said Tatiana Lopez. “There are few days left before this is over.”