Being a displaced mother at the Colombian-Venezuelan border

“When we arrived, we had no bed, no mattress. I slept my first 5 months of pregnancy on the floor, the space was very small and we had to sleep there all together, next to each other.”

These are the words of one of the women who attend the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Norte de Santander, a Colombian department located at the border with Venezuela. At the Colombian Borders. An area whose migratory reality contains many key elements that help us understand what, in reality, is a deep humanitarian crisis with different roots. On the one hand, since 2017, the crisis has been caused by the beginning of the implementation of the Peace Accords between the National Government of Colombia and the FARC-EP, in a polarized country where violence is taking on new forms but is not being reduced. On the other hand, it drinks from the worsening political and economic situation in Venezuela, which is causing a large number of people to be in a situation of extreme vulnerability and social risk, both inside and outside the borders.

The border is a bond, a connection, but it has progressively become a space in which the rights of displaced persons are violated, as well as those of the host population, who live in a situation of profound lack of protection. Women are the main victims of this situation, because they are forced to flee or to move to places where there are no productive alternatives for them or opportunities to get an education for their children. Among these, pregnant and lactating women who have migrated find themselves in a situation of special vulnerability: unprotected due to their irregular situation and without the possibility of accessing services that cover basic needs.

«This has changed my life, because it has been difficult to leave the little that we had and even more being pregnant», explains another women served by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Norte de Santander. «Although we came here with our minds prepared for everything… because here we know that there are more possibilities than in Venezuela”.

JRS offers a hospital and a shelter, gives them legal advice to bring them closer to their rights, if offers accompaniment in psychosocial processes, humanitarian assistance, access to prenatal check-ups and access to certain types of medication.

«This has changed my life, because it has been difficult to leave the little that we had and even more being pregnant.»

Many of the women in the area flee from the fear and violence that they suffer on their place of origin, from the gender-based violence that most of them suffer and from the emotional stress caused by family disintegration and the changing roles during displacement. They are resilient women, seeking to move forward despite the various adversities that they have encountered along the way, putting their integrity and that of their families at risk. Added to this situation we find the various health problems affecting pregnant and lactating women and their children.