April 28, 2020 / 8:38 PM / a month ago

After fleeing home, Venezuelan doctor helps tackle coronavirus in Ecuador

QUITO, April 28 (Reuters) - Samuel Suarez, a young Venezuelan doctor, fled his country’s economic collapse two years ago and migrated to Ecuador. He says he is now harnessing that experience to help vulnerable people in his new adopted home amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Millions of Venezuelans emigrated to other South American countries in recent years to escape hunger and violence.

Several hundred of the 400,000 Venezuelans who settled in Ecuador have returned home, authorities say, as Ecuador’s strict quarantine has left them without jobs. But a number of those remaining have been helping Ecuador with its pandemic, working in healthcare.

“Migrants are key people to help in any crisis as they are used to crises,” Suarez, 27, said in a Skype interview from Ecuador’s largest city Guayaquil, the center of its epidemic.

Suarez works in a Guayaquil dialysis clinic in the morning, and later conducts medical visits in the city’s slums - where there is scarce access to medicine - checking people for coronavirus symptoms and telling them how to avoid contagion.

“Right now, we have to show solidarity, and doctors even more so, because there are patients who can’t pay for treatment,” Suarez said.

Ecuador has confirmed 24,258 cases of COVID-19, with 871 deaths, though the government has warned the toll is likely much higher. The outbreak has overwhelmed Guayaquil’s health system, with many families leaving bodies in their homes or in the street due to a shortage of space for burials. (Writing by Alexandra Valencia Editing by Angus Berwick and Rosalba O’Brien)

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