Information About: Colombia
MMI Canada first travelled to Colombia in 2004, under the leadership of Willie and Janice Hunter, at the invitation of Antonio and Ruth Cortes and the Iglesia Cruzada.
Juan Alan Muñoz developed into a regional project director and quickly developed strong relationships with community leaders. Eye care projects led by Richard and Barbara Skinner and Juan Alan Muñoz have served over 55,000 patients from 2005 to 2015 in Buenaventura, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Leticia and Ciénaga.
The Yavari River Amazon Project teams deliver primary care and dental services in a 200 km radius around Leticia, Colombia. Leticia is an ideal location to serve patients from three different countries: Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. MMI Canada is supporting Clínica Leticia, which serves 80 emergency and 120 medical patients daily, as it increases capacity to serve the region.
Each day our teams travel down the river and set up clinics in local rural villages. Although it is not physically demanding, Yavari River Amazon projects are considered an extreme project due to basic lodging accommodations and elevated exposure to certain diseases. If you have a servant’s heart and an adventurous spirit— join us and experience the Amazon!
- Yavari River, Amazon Region
Project teams in Colombia aim to provide basic primary care, dental care, as well as specialized vision services. Due to the remoteness of Amazon regions, MMI Canada teams typically provide the only medical aid for the Indigenous persons in these areas.
Vision care projects are focused in urban areas, and include opportunities for local medical personnel to receive training. These large projects typically see a high volume of patients looking for all types of services: glasses, cataract surgery.... Through MMI Canada and our project partners, the 'blind' can now see.
About Yavari River, Amazon Region
The Amazon Region MMI Canada serves is comprised of three countries: Brazil, Colombia and Peru. In this region there is no road access, only river and plane; so, if a Brazilian needs medical care he must travel by boat up to six or seven days to Manaus, Peruvians have to go three to four days up to Iquitos, and Colombians have to fly out to Bogotá.
The Yavari River region is inhabited by Peruvians and Brazilians that belong to the Ticuna tribe. These people live in communities that range from 80 to 600 people. Every village has a main leader who works with a small council. The families live in wooden homes; and have large families with ten to twelve members each. Each family has a chakra where they farm and cultivate the land for their living. Healthcare access is supported by outreach programs with Clinica Leticia and MMI, in order to reach out to each village.
Villagers live a very simple lifestyle: electricity is unavailable in some areas, and without running water, villagers are forced to depend on river water for washing and rainwater for drinking. During the dry season, (June to September) water is a scarcity. The rainy season (October to May) causes flood damage to homes, and has been known to erode away and carry off homes along the river’s edge. Malaria outbreaks are common especially during the rainy season.
MMI Canada has formed an alliance with a clinic in Leticia (Clínica Leticia) where a moderate level of health care can be provided such as surgeries and deliveries. In the Amazon region, many patients are transported weekly to Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, due to lack of advanced medical machines and specialists. Clinica Leticia is working to upgrade its facilities to reduce the number of air transports.
In some villages, there is a person who has had very basic medical training, but their resources are extremely limited. Many times there is no medicine available. Therefore, the villagers wait until they are extremely sick before even thinking about getting medical attention. The other factor that affects the villagers is distance: many times a health centre is far away from their village and the cost of gasoline is too high for them to be able to afford transportation.
Yavari River, Amazon project teams will join forces with MMI Clínica Leticia; the team will stay in tents and travel by boat to seven villages. The primary goal is to provide physical, spiritual, and emotional care to the Indigenous populations. In each village we hope to see 150 patients or cover 50% of the villages need.
96 m (314 ft)
Hot and humid
Average Temperature 27°C (80.6°F)
Ciénaga is located in the Magdalena Department and is the second largest city in the region with a population of 121,681 inhabitants, 65,357 of which are in urban areas and 56,324 of which are in rural areas. Inhabitants are involved in the raising livestock and the petro-chemical industry. The beaches near the Caribbean sea in Ciénaga are a popular site for family recreation.
There are currently eight health institutions which are subsidized by the government. Ciénaga currently is aiming towards increasing capacity to meet the UN Millenium Development goals, as well as their own municipal Millenium Development goals.
10 m (30 ft.)
Hot and humid
Average Temperature 30.4°C (89°F)
Colombia is the most biodiverse country per square kilometer in the world. Indigenous populations such as the Muisca, Quimbaya, and Tairona have mixed with Spanish, African, and Middle Eastern immigrants to create a culture as unique as its landscape. Colombia is the third most populous Latin American country with 47 million persons.
Health care reforms in the 1980s have made great strides in Colombia: it is estimated that 96% of the population has health care coverage. However, high quality health care is only available to the emerging middle and upper classes in urban centres. Those that are economically disadvantaged frequently suffer from less attention, allowing health disparities to continue. Life expectancy and infant mortality measures are slowly increasing, and are among the best in Latin America. A shortage of qualified healthcare workers allows infectious diseases to continue to spread, however chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes are increasing in prevalence.
Colombia has a strong education system, and most males and females are literate and finish secondary school. Interestingly, rural education is often of high quality due to a novel teaching method Escuela Nueva that places students at the centre of learning.
Colombia has four major climate regions: Andean mountains, Amazonian rainforest, tropical grassland, and Caribbean and Pacific coastlines. Most urban centres are located in the Andean highlands, and the population density of other areas is quite low. Regional identities are very strong, and the country has undergone low-intensity armed conflict throughout the 1990s. Approximated 71% of the population is Roman Catholic, and 16.7% are Protestant.
Northern South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Panama and Venezuela, and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Ecuador and Panama
4 00 N, 72 00 W
Brazil 1,790 km
Ecuador 708 km
Panama 339 km
Peru 1,494 km
Venezuela 2,341 km
12 nautical miles
Tropical along coast and eastern plains, cooler in highlands.
Amazon region is tropical, with average temperature of 27°C (80.6°F)
Flat coastal lowlands, central highlands, high Andean Mountains, eastern lowland plains (Llanos)
Pacific Ocean 0 m
Pico Cristobal Colon 5,775 m
Country Entry Requirements
Travelers are required to have a valid passport for the duration of their stay. Travel visa is not required. A departure tax is charged for all international flights.
Canadians: As of January 2015, Canadians are charged a reciprocity tax of approx. $73 US to enter Colombia. Travelers to Putumayo, Meta, Gorgona (Cauca), Tayrona National Park (Magdalena), and Caquetá must produce proof of yellow fever vaccination, as it will be required by airlines for flights to these departments. Please check the following website for the most current entry/exit requirements: http://travel.gc.ca/destinations/colombia
Americans: For more information see the US State Department website: http://www.travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1090.html#entry_requirement
Please send a copy of the following to the MMI Canada office:
- Current license
- Current diploma
- CV for MD, DDS, DMD, RN/LN, RPN/LPN, NP, PA, and surgeons
- Surgeons: surgical privileges list
Once you have been accepted on the project, we will provide our designated travel agent information so that you can arrange your travel in order to coordinate logistics of the team.
Canadian Applicants: Donations for travel are in addition to the Participant Project Donation.
US Applicants: Travel costs are arranged individually and are in addition to the Participant Project Donation.
For Leticia: Vasquez Cobo airport in Leticia (LET) via El Dorado International Airport Bogotá (BOG) on one continuous ticket.
For other project sites: Airport to be determined
Lodging and Accommodations
Teams will stay at a local guest house or basic hotel while on the projects in Colombia.
For Extreme Amazon projects, teams will stay at a local guest house or basic hotel the first and last night. All the other nights will be spent on the Amazon River in tents.
Bed Linens: supplied
Extreme Amazon: bring linens (sleeping mat and sheets)
Bath Towels: supplied
Extreme Amazon: bring a bath-size towel and hand towel/washcloth
Laundry Service: available
Extreme Amazon: a villager will be available to do laundry
Hot Water: occasionally
Extreme Amazon: bathe in the river
Phone Service: expensive, but available - check with your cell phone provider
Extreme Amazon: not available
Internet: unlikely to be available with the exception of internet cafes in Leticia
Extreme Amazon: not available
Voltage: 110 V (transformers and adaptors not required)
Meals: Meals are provided by MMI staff. Be sure to bring your own re-usable water bottle with a wide mouth for refilling. Purified water is supplied.
Extreme Amazon: The goal is to provide delicious and balanced meals, but there are times when refrigeration is not possible; so, local food from each village like fish and jungle meat (such as crocodile) is served. Vegetables are not easy to come by in the jungle.
Currency is the Colombian peso. US Dollars are sometimes accepted in urban areas, but are not acceptable in rural regions.