In a house of a modest neighborhood in Cúcuta, a border town next to Venezuela, we meet Katherine and her daughter Sharick, 8 years of age. Katherine is pregnant with her second son, who should be a reason for joy; however, she doesn’t look happy at all, but very concerned and nervous.
“I am 29. I have a daughter but two years ago I lost my son, who died while I was 3-months pregnant and caught the Chikunguya. My daughter also caught that. Now I am 5-months pregnant and in December we all had Zika at home, no one escaped. Almost everyone in the neighborhood has Zika. Since then we remove the stagnant water we kept at home in tires, in bottles. However, we do not have a drinking water tank; that is why we have to keep water in tanks because there is no [running] water in the houses here.
We had to come to Cúcuta deported from Venezuela after the border was closed. We had to leave all our things behind. We came here to live because they would not sell us any food, anything… and since we were with the girl, we were very concerned. Over there we worked sanding wood. Coming here was horrible because it is very hard to work your whole life and having to leave it all behind— your house, your things… and the next day you wake up with nothing to wear, not even a toothbrush.
During pregnancy, since I caught Zika, my head hurts a lot; I lost strength in my hands, my blood pressure is wrong… This had not happened in my previous pregnancies. During Zika, I had lots of vomits and diarrhea in my second month. I am quite worried. I am frightened every time I go to get checked. I am terrified when I think of how the child might be born, I am too frightened about how my child might be, because I’ve been told that some children are born normal but when they grow they can no longer fend for themselves.
Cúcuta is a municipality in the department of Norte de Santander, in the border with Venezuela. In September of 2015, the Venezuelan government closed the border, which caused the irregular economy—prolific in those border areas—to drop.
It is one of the municipalities with greater numbers of Zika cases in the country. In addition, most of the population live with limited resources, this it is normal to store water in the houses with no protection for consumption and to clean the house. This has caused many mosquitos to live in the breeding grounds around these storages.
Currently Cúcuta is contributing with 11 % of the cases of Zika nationwide.
Save the Children’s response in Colombia is oriented to prevention through offices and partners in the regions. We are working along with governments in order to achieve a greater impact; that is why we work with the Ministry of Public Health and with the Health Secretary in every department.
There will be an awareness-raising and knowledge campaign to disseminate the need and the ways to put an end to the mosquitos’ breeding grounds. Training will be provided for adults and youths teams who will go to the houses spread this information.
Mosquito nets will also be installed in schools through the strategy “Schools free of the Aedes”. It will directly benefit 10 thousand children and adolescents in Cúcuta.
There will be support to sexual and reproductive health, and support for pregnant women.