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MSF in Colombia, 2008
Field Staff: 294
Reason for Intervention:
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In 2008 territorial conflicts linked to the narcotics trade in Colombia caused increasing numbers of people to flee their homes, aggravating the country’s alarming humanitarian crisis. Assistance for those most affected, including the provision of health care, is limited. Mental health care for victims of violence is needed across the country. People living in rural areas and in marginalized urban areas continue to suffer from diseases that could be easily prevented and treated.
There are Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) programs in 17 of Colombia’s 32 departments. The range of services includes primary healthcare, mental health programs, mobile clinics in urban and rural areas, reproductive healthcare, emergency obstetric care, assistance to victims of sexual violence, antenatal care, water sanitation, basic refurbishment of health structures, voluntary counseling treatment, pregnancy termination, and emergency response.
In the Uraba region, mobile clinics provided medical access to the most isolated communities in the rural areas surrounding Saiza and in Rio Sucio. Here MSF also supported hospital services, offering mental health and reproductive services and carried out more than 14,700 consultations. In the Norte de Santander department, the teams assisted communities isolated by conflict in El Tarra and La Gabarra. Through mobile clinics, they provided more than 8,400 consultations to rural people who had been forced to flee their homes.
In the Sucre and Bolivar departments, MSF gained greater access to the disputed Montes de Maria region. MSF provided basic health care in mobile clinics, and carried out more than 10,550 consultations. Services in Sincelejo focused on the basic and reproductive health of people who had been forced to flee their homes, supporting those affected by sexual violence, and providing access to HIV testing and counseling.
In the urban area of Buenaventura, MSF set up a fixed health post, mobile clinics in the neighborhood, and a referral system to the state’s health care facilities. The program has offered care for victims of sexual violence, reproductive healthcare, pediatric care, and psychological assistance, providing 8,375 medical consultations. A mobile medical team also works on the border between Meta and Guaviare, where the team gave 4,650 medical consultations.
In Tolima’s southwest areas, where access to health care has improved significantly, MSF provided more than 6,470 medical consultations.
There were also 8,670 medical and 180 psychological consultations conducted through mobile clinics in Barbacoas, Magui Payán, and Roberto Payán. The medical activities were closed in October 2008. However, a reduced team remained in the area and attended to displaced people who continued to arrive in Barbacoas. MSF provided medical care, including psychological care and health promotion, in the Piamonte municipalities of Cauca and Puerto Guzman in Putumayo. In 2008, 5,860 medical and 755 psychological consultations were conducted in mobile clinics.
MSF closed its urban project for people who had been forced to flee their homes in the Soacha municipality after 10 years and more than 100,000 consultations.
In Chocó, one of the poorest regions in Colombia, MSF provides sexual and reproductive healthcare in urban and rural areas, including assistance to victims of sexual violence. In Quibdó, the main city, MSF runs an urban mobile clinic and supports the maternity ward in the only hospital providing secondary healthcare. In Istmina, a mobile team travels by boat to reach remote villages on the banks of the San Juan river, where 10,470 consultations were provided in 2008.
In the municipality of Tame, MSF teams provided more than 15,000 consultations, giving primary healthcare, family planning, antenatal healthcare, and psychological support.
During 2008 MSF also responded to the emergency of the Nevado del Huila volcano, Cauca department, and the River San Juan floods in Chocó.
MSF has worked in Colombia since 1985.