Sick Venezuelans flee to Colombia in mounting refugee crisis

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Sick Venezuelans flee to Colombia in mounting refugee crisis
In this Feb. 21, 2018 photo, Venezuelan citizens cross the International Simon Bolivar bridge into the Colombia. As Venezuela's economic crisis worsens, rising numbers are fleeing in a burgeoning refugee crisis that could soon match the flight of Syrians from the war-torn Middle East. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

CUCUTA, Colombia (AP) — As Venezuela’s economic crisis worsens, rising numbers of its people are fleeing in a burgeoning refugee crisis that is drawing alarm across Latin America.

Independent groups estimate as many as 3 million to 4 million Venezuelans have left in recent years, with several hundred thousand departing in the last year alone.

Many of those migrants are arriving by foot in Colombia and landing in the Andean nation’s emergency rooms with urgent medical conditions that Venezuelan hospitals can no longer treat.

According to Colombian health officials, Venezuelans made nearly 25,000 visits to Colombian ERs last year, up from just 1,500 in 2015. At hospitals in border cities like Cucuta, patients are packed side by side on stretchers that spill into hallways, not much unlike the deplorable conditions they fled back home.