Wednesday, May 1, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar visited Hospital Maria Auxiliadora in Lima, Peru, with Minister of Health Zulema Tomás to learn about the hospital and the unique challenges they face treating migrants and refugees from Venezuela. The hospital currently supports the South Zone of Lima and treats a population of approximately 3 million patients with only 540 beds.
On average, the hospital sees 400 patients daily and up to 100 may be admitted each day. Hospital leaders detailed the strain on the hospital and Peruvian healthcare system created by the recent influx of Venezuelan migrants and refugees. Secretary Azar, Minister Tomás, U.S. Ambassador to Peru Krishna R. Urs, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield visited the maternity ward, neonatal unit, emergency room, and Tuberculosis ward.
After the hospital visit, Secretary Azar, Ambassador Urs, Director Redfield, and other U.S. officials met with Venezuelan medical healthcare professionals to get a better understanding of the healthcare needs and challenges Venezuelan migrants and refugees face, particularly those serving in health professions. They described many situations they and others have faced as a direct result of Venezuela’s collapsed health system—including, but not limited to, human trafficking, absence of mental health support, lack of access to medications and vaccinations, and the spread of illnesses.
Secretary Azar thanked the participants for sharing their stories and expressed that the U.S. government recognizes the desperate humanitarian need inside and outside Venezuela. The U.S. has provided nearly $257 million in assistance ($213 million in humanitarian assistance and approximately $43 million in development and economic assistance) to support the most vulnerable Venezuelans living in 17 countries in the region.
In the afternoon, Secretary Azar and other HHS officials visited the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit – 6 (NAMRU-6) which conducts research on and surveillance of a wide range of infectious diseases that are of public health significance in the region, including malaria and dengue fever, yellow fever, viral encephalitides, leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, and enteric diseases such as shigellosis and typhoid fever.
During the visit, Secretary Azar learned about their robust research agenda that includes work in prevention strategies, clinical management trials, immuno- and molecular rapid diagnostics, epidemiology, and ecology as well as projects measuring the social and economic impact of disease.
Tonight, Secretary Azar will travel home to the United States. This serves as the final update of his meetings in Lima, Peru.
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Author: HHS Press Office