The Border Health Program: Stories of Resilience and Healing - Doctors of the World

The Border Health Program: Stories of Resilience and Healing


Doctors of the World has now been present for a year in El Paso, Texas to provide healthcare and support to migrants in transit. The city is overwhelmed by a wave of migration, as thousands of people cross the southern border, fleeing poverty, armed conflict, authoritarian regimes and the climate crisis. The number of people entering the city to seek asylum fluctuates between 250 to 2,000 per day, putting serious strain on resources and exceeding the shelter capacity. 

Many of those arriving in the city have endured terrible hardships throughout their migration journey. The route from South America through Central America is filled with danger, especially in the Darien Gap jungle. Illness, dehydration, armed conflict, sexual assault, kidnapping and torture are just some of the traumas migrants can experience throughout their journey. 

Unfortunately, crossing the border from Mexico to the USA is also rife with risks. The Texas Government has launched Operation Lonestar, which has taken drastic measures to prevent migrations from crossing the border, often leading to harm, injury and at times, death. Reports of more serious injuries, like amputated limbs, broken bones and even death are growing with the taller border wall built since 2019. 


Doctors of the World’s Program in El Paso


As El Paso experiences serious strain on its resources, alongside the number of injuries and harm experienced while crossing the border, Doctors of the World (DotW) has established a primary care center in the area to meet the growing needs of the migrant population in the city. 

Doctors of the World has established a partnership with Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC) and local partners and shelters. Together, we aim to improve health outcomes of migrants in transit and increase capacity of local health systems by offering transitional medical care, prioritizing data management to advocate for sound evidence-based public health policy, and training local health service providers on migration and public health.

Our partnership with TTUHSC provides faculty, residents, and students hands-on learning opportunities that will serve as the foundation for future research and curriculum development focused on migration and public health. 

For the past year, the DotW and TTUHSC teams have been providing essential primary care to the many migrants who pass through the clinic. The patients we receive come from all across South America, both women and children, young and old. Below you can discover the story of two of our recent patients and learn what we’ve been doing to support them on their journey.


Stories of Resilience and Healing

Meet Andres*, a remarkable 7-year-old boy from Venezuela who embarked on a perilous journey across seven countries to reach the United States with his family. They faced unimaginable challenges driven by a search for political freedom, safety from gang violence, and economic opportunities. Upon his arrival at the clinic, Andres followed Dr. Monica Reyes, the Head of Program, fascinated by the work of Doctors of the World, and the logo that symbolized his aspirations. Andres and his family were seen in our clinic for persistent fever, cough, congestion, and asthma. These are typical conditions experienced by migrants who are in transition. They received medication to resolve their acute conditions and prevent them from going to the ER. Inspired by the compassionate care he received, Andrés said: “my dream is to become a doctor to help more people like me”. 

CPF - Dr Rytting Scribe and Border Wall Fall

Meet Carolina*, a courageous 47-year-old woman from Colombia, who traveled with her three daughters, fleeing from a 40 year old civil war between the government, paramilitary groups, and narcotrafficanti cartels. After climbing off the border wall resulting in a fractured leg, Doctors of the World’s clinic facilitated her recovery. Her daughters also received vital medical evaluations and treatments, including mental health support. Carolina’s older daughter received special attention as she attempted suicide due to travel trauma in the Darién Gap jungle, one of the most dangerous migration routes. 




*Names have been changed to protect anonymity