In Cali, Colombia, a Colombian physiotherapist works to counter
the effects of street violence in one of most dangerous towns
in the country...
Full Name: Roger Micolta
Episode: "Caught In The
COLOMBIA | BURUNDI
| SIERRA LEONE
Why are there so many paralyzed victims of street violence in Cali,
In Colombia, poverty, unemployment, easy access to
firearms, and minimal access to education have spectacularly increased
the homicide rate, which is currently close to 77 killings for every
100,000 people. In Cali, a cultural phenomenon – the technique
of shooting your victim in the back as a means of revenge –
has given a specific form to the more generalized urban violence
found throughout the rest of the country.
In this episode, MSF treats Colombian young
men who are not only victims of violent crime, but also have committed
violent crimes in the past and often want to seek revenge when they
recover. In fact, after recovering, one patient, Mauricio, shoots
the person who shot him. Why does MSF treat people who might continue
the cycle of violence?
Like any physicians, MSF doctors and nurses cannot
refuse to treat someone based on what they might do in the future.
Furthermore, this MSF mission in Colombia includes a psychological
component that focuses on prevention of violence. MSF has developed
many “psychosocial” programs with a broad approach,
focusing on an integrated mix of social, psychological, legal and
medical activities. Building trust is central to these psychosocial
programs, which strive to reintegrate these young men into existing
social structures and to support their transition in various ways.
In this episode, MSF has a psychologist on
hand in Bujumbura, Burundi. Does MSF often send psychologists into
the field with MDs?
In any MSF medical project, in any part of the world,
there is always a psychological component to the work, if only in
the personal interaction between doctor and patient, the ability
to listen and the chance to be heard. People living in unstable
political situations or living through a natural disaster can suffer
severe psychological trauma.
In some places MSF has developed projects that specifically
seek to provide mental health care. In the West Bank and Gaza Strip,
for example, MSF teams visit Palestinians in their homes, counseling
people trapped in the ongoing conflict, where stress and trauma
create a complicated mixture of physical and psychological reactions.
Another example is Rwanda, where MSF works with female survivors
of the 1994 genocide, many of whom continue to suffer trauma associated
with rape and torture eight years on. In Burundi, an ongoing guerilla
conflict places extraordinary stress on civilians living under constant
threat of random violence. MSF’s psychological program in
Bujumbura seeks to help patients cope with this stress through counseling.