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MSF in Colombia, 2007
Field Staff: 312
Reason for Intervention:
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Hundreds of thousands of Colombians are displaced, trapped, isolated and impoverished by the conflict that has ravaged their country for the past 45 years. Guerrilla groups, government forces and paramilitary groups continue to fight in many areas. The violence has caused widespread physical and psychological distress, yet many victims continue to be overlooked by their government and the international community. Healthcare access is difficult and dangerous for those in rural conflict zones and those forced to seek refuge in urban slums.
Delivering healthcare in conflict stricken areas
MSF has a wide range of healthcare projects across the country particularly in areas affected by violence and conflict. Mobile clinics provide primary care, sexual and reproductive healthcare and mental health care to patients in the rural areas of Norte de Santander , Sucre/Bolívar, Chocó, Córdoba, Nariño, Cauca, Putumayo, Arauca and Caquetá. In July, MSF began to provide medical healthcare using mobile teams to assist the populations in the rural areas of Cartagena del Charia and San Vicente de Caguán. Inhabitants in southern Colombia are also suffering the effects of the conflict, with Cauca and Putumayo witness to frequent fighting. In March MSF began working in the area, supporting health facilities and providing healthcare through mobile teams.
MSF also gained access to the Montes de Maria region following a three-year blockade of all international organizations.
In Buenaventura (Valle del Cauca), one of the most violent cities in Colombia, where access to healthcare is limited by the dangers of traveling in the city, MSF has established mobile clinics to provide urgent medical care. MSF has also opened a center to assist patients who cannot access other health
MSF also supported the internally displaced populations (IDPs), seeing over 9,000 patients in the urban clinic in Sincelejo, Sucre. On the outskirts of Bogotá, Colombia’s capital, MSF works with the displaced in Soacha, conducting medical consultations and providing mental health support for those excluded from the public health system. The team also tells families about their right to national healthcare and provides information on gaining access to the government-run health system. Some 2,700 patients were seen in 2007, many suffering from skin diseases, respiratory infections and psychological distress.
In August, MSF began a new project for IDPs on the Venezuelan border, in Tame, Arauca department, where nearly 1,500 consultations were carried out in the first two months. Delays in receiving government social benefits leave IDPs with gaps in healthcare coverage, which MSF covers by providing medical care to all recent IDPs. Mental health consultations are also complemented with training and support for local mental health institutions. Efforts to address mental health are made in Caquetá department through mental health centers in Florencia and adjacent municipalities.
Prioritising maternity needs
In Quibdó, Chocó, MSF focuses on the maternity needs of women and babies by providing direct support to the maternity ward. MSF also provides sexual, reproductive and mental healthcare using mobile clinics in the IDP areas of the city. Over 17,600 consultations were carried out, with particular attention paid to the medical and psychological needs of victims of sexual and domestic violence.
Projects closed in Tolima and Huila
After seven years, MSF has begun closing projects that provided primary and mental healthcare in rural Tolima and Huila and to displaced people in Ibagué as there is now a lesser need for mental health consultations as the displaced population has decreased.
MSF has worked in Colombia since 1985.