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Thousands of Venezuelan Women Crossing Border to Have Babies, Overwhelming Colombia's Public Health Care

Venezuelan mother and child

CUCUTA, Colombia - There's tremendous human suffering in Venezuela as new pressure is being applied to President Nicolas Maduro to give up power.  Meanwhile, the dictator's socialist policies are affecting people in ways no one imagined and the country that's bearing the burden is neighboring Colombia.  

When Karelys Herrera found out she was pregnant, she thought her life was over.  Village life in Colombia makes it hard enough to provide for herself with constant shortages, much less a baby.  To make matters worse, she was only 14-years-old. 

"When I found out that I was pregnant, I wanted to kill myself," Herrera told CBN News. "I said I was too young to have a baby and I couldn't do it. I didn't think my partner would come live with me. I thought he was going to leave me."

Many of Herrera's friends face the same plight and with no health care options here, they've crossed the border to have their babies in Colombia.

CBN News visited the public hospital in Cucuta and found it very busy

"Since there are no hospitals in Venezuela that can care for people, the hospitals here are just overwhelmed with people coming in with everything from pregnancy to terrible gunshot wounds and all sorts of things," said CBN News Correspondent Chuck Holton.  And the hospitals here have spent millions of dollars caring for these people." 

More than 25,000 Venezuelans who have settled in Colombia since 2015 have had babies. This presented a problem as those children had no proof of citizenship. Earlier this month, the Colombian government decided to grant these children citizenship, so that they will be able to go to school and access civil services. 

Marianne Menjivar is the country director of Colombia for the International Rescue Committee. 

"They were caught in a limbo," she explained. "And with this measure, the government of Colombia is saying children's rights are above other interests and that children will be afforded citizenship rights, right to an education, to health care, and the protection the state can give them."

At the public hospital in Cucuta, CBN News met Alexandra. She's 29 years old. She's not pregnant. She's here because her daughter is pregnant and her daughter is only 13 years old. But she's kind of having problems because here in Colombia, it's a crime to get a thirteen-year-old girl pregnant. So the state is trying to figure out what to do because the state here isn't really sure how to handle such a young mother.

Alfredo Posada is the spokesman for Colombia's National Civil Registry. 

"By the end of the year, 2019, we could be easily talking about 30,000 nationalized as Colombians," he explained. "25,000 plus of those we'll add this year as newborns. We could easily reach 30,000 children nationalized."

The United States is increasing sanctions against Maduro and his supporters in an effort to finally bring some lasting improvement to Venezuela, but that only means that conditions inside the country will likely continue to deteriorate. 

But for these little ones, Colombia's compassion means their future just got a little bit brighter. 

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