Venezuelan Refugee access to Reproductive and Sexual Health Services in Peru: Understanding and Addressing the Need

Rebecca Irons

One of the fantastic opportunities that has accompanied studying at UCL with a Wellcome Trust Doctoral Studentship has undoubtedly been the prospects for further career development. On this, I have been lucky to recently receive a Secondment Fellowship award to work with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Peru on an important project that seeks to address the urgent situation of Venezuelan migrant health in Latin America.

Anti-Venezuela Graffiti in Lima suggest that some parts of the Peruvian community have not received the migrants with open arms. It reads (left to right): “Peru free of Venezuelans” with the Peruvian flag, and “Venezuelans, Thieves, Murderers”.

The Venezuelan migrant crisis has expanded to over 3 million refugees in recent years and has been projected to cause an emergency eclipsing that of Syria’s. Therefore, working alongside UNFPA, this Secondment will allow me to address a global health concern in a project that is extremely timely.

More Anti-Venezuela Graffiti in Lima: The Venezuelan flag ‘handshake’ stabs the Peruvian [in the back]. Discriminatory stereotypes of Venezuelan migrants are a problem in Peru.

This project is entitled: ‘Venezuelan Refugee access to Reproductive and Sexual Health Services in Peru: Understanding and Addressing the Need’.


Over half a million Venezuelan refugees have fled to Peru, leaving behind a country where medical services are in ruin and the people are in need. Hyperinflation led to the disappearance and/or unobtainable prices of contraceptives. For example the oral combined pill is widely unavailable in pharmacies and a pack of condoms costs over one-month’s wages (Gallegos, 2016:45). As such, unplanned pregnancy and STI/HIV risk have increased (Daniels, 2017). Tebolledo-Pontiesky, (2018) further point out that the recent flood of Venezuelan migrants into Peru who require urgent HIV care has risen sharply and requires further investigation in order to best attend to these needs.

Peru previously offered a temporary resident permit scheme (PTP) that ended in December 2018, inciting an influx of migrants towards the end of the year. The Peruvian medical system (MINSA) offers free health care to those with citizenship, but this is a bureaucratic hurdle that many Venezuelans are unable to jump for lack of appropriate documentation.

Working alongside UNFPA, this project will address the growing need and make policy recommendations to the Peruvian government to better serve the reproductive and sexual needs of the refugee population.

Main Project Questions & Aims:

  1. If and how are Venezuelan refugees accessing reproductive health services (including family planning, STI & HIV diagnosis and treatment, and pregnancy care)?
  2. Which services are absent or in need of further attention; How are refugees coping without these?
  3. What changes are needed in policy and/or training in order to reach more refugees with the necessary services?

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