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Fearful of having a baby in a grim Venezuelan hospital, Venezuelan women in labor stream into Colombia to have their babies.

Most of them show up at emergency rooms at the last minute to ensure they receive free urgent care, as the law requires. They escape an economic crisis marked by dire food shortages and an infant-mortality rate that is higher than war-torn Syria’s.

With antibiotics, surgical tools and disinfectants scarce, Venezuelan women face a sharply rising risk of dying in childbirth in state hospitals from preventable causes such as infection, hemorrhaging or high blood pressure.

Thousands of Venezuelans have flocked to Colombia, and especially to the border state of North Santander, in search of treatment for everything from cancer to kidney disease since early 2016. Once a model for health care in Latin America, Venezuela’s health system has slid into crisis, with doctors fleeing the country and hospitals unable to stock medicines.

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