By Melissa Monzon

Andres Yares has been a volunteer for the Peruvian Red Cross over seventeen years, and since 2019 he has been supporting as a nurse in health activities directed at migrants. “In 2019 I started working in this project, helping in the community health days. We visited many districts on the outskirts of Lima, where there were not only migrants, but also local people in great need, and we gave medical attention to everyone”, says Andres. “For me it is important to work with migrants because they are people who, in addition to not being in their country, have many unmet needs. Many of them do not have access to health care or have had to stop their treatments because a medical appointment was too expensive for them.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Peru has kept his borders closed from March 16 to date. Hundreds of migrants who were on transit have been unable to leave the country. Also, many of them who are already established in the country have run out of sources of income, so they cannot cover expenses such as rent. A large percentage of these migrants don’t have access to the Peruvian health system, and in a context such as COVID-19, they are left unprotected, increasing their health risks.

For this reason, since April 03, the Red Cross has been providing health care in different shelters in various districts of Lima, the capital of Peru, which is home to approximately 80% Venezuelan migrants who are in the country.

Since March, the community health days had to take a turn, since the country was quarantined for more than three months. So, Andres, together with the project team, began visiting different shelters where migrants and refuge applicants of nationalities stayed.

“Something that stands out a lot of my work, beyond the medical care, is be able to share, talk with them, about their needs, concerns, and to understand the way how they see things and their customs. In my work I talk to many people and that has left a mark on me. In the shelters we have given medical attention to people from different countries such as Venezuela, Haiti, Nigeria. It’s incredible to see how, if you want, you can communicate with everyone, and get to know them. We communicated with people who didn’t speak Spanish by signs, or with a translation app from the cell phone. That way you could make them feel love and affection and they were very grateful”, says Andres who today works giving information about COVID-19 through the WhatsApp Line that the Red Cross has implemented in Peru.

From April to date, the Red Cross, with the support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has provided more than 500 health services in shelters located in six districts of Lima, Peru, as well as health information, with emphasis on preventive measures against COVID-19.