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MSF in Colombia, 2012
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Colombians living in conflict zones have to contend not only with chronic violence but also with geographical, cultural, administrative and financial barriers to healthcare.
In the southern departments of Cauca, Nariño, Caquetá and Putumayo, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) operated mobile clinics and fixed health posts throughout the year, offering basic healthcare and vaccinations, sexual and reproductive healthcare, including family planning and antenatal care, and referrals for emergencies. People traumatized by regular exposure to violence rarely have access to public mental health services. MSF provides psychological assistance through clinical consultations, counseling sessions and community work. Staff saw a steady growth in the number of patients using services, carrying out 5,400 mental health consultations and providing medical and psychological care to nearly 200 victims of sexual violence. Group activities to promote good health and raise awareness of mental health issues reached 38,400 people.
Violent attacks by armed groups forced people to leave their homes in seven separate incidents. MSF distributed medical supplies and relief items to local health facilities and provided direct medical and psychological care to a total of 16,000 people.
Meeting Health Needs in Buenaventura
Thousands of people live in slum conditions in the Pacific seaport of Buenaventura. Tuberculosis (TB) is one of several public health concerns. MSF supports the National TB Control Program in the detection and treatment of the disease, including the more difficult to treat drug-resistant TB. By the end of the year, 285 new patients had begun treatment, and 60 were undergoing treatment for drug-resistant TB.
The Chagas program in Norte de Santander was closed in September, after 10 years of activity. Patient numbers had fallen: of 2,250 screened for Chagas in 2012, 43 were diagnosed with the disease and received treatment. Patient care was handed over to the Ministry of Health, while the Pan American Health Organization took over the monitoring of the program. In July, MSF handed over the River Atrato program, based in Riosucio, to the Ministry of Health. The team had been providing basic and mental healthcare, reproductive healthcare and assistance to victims of sexual violence through a clinic, as well as mobile outreach to four communities. MSF continues to advocate around three main issues of concern in Colombia: healthcare access, the effects of conflict on mental health and the urgent need for mental health support, and awareness of and treatment for sexual violence.
Alicia * received mental health support from MSF in Cauca department.
Look, this is all so hard … The day you least think about it, there are combats or explosions in our town. All the time there has been this anxiety. That is what produces my poor health. Before, I didn’t feel the pain that I now feel.
Now, every day I feel bad. I can’t sleep … One feels bad, and one thinks: until when do you have to live in this situation? If I had somewhere to go, I would go, but regrettably I don’t.
* The patient’s name has been changed.
At the end of 2012, MSF had 284 staff in Colombia. MSF started working in the country in 1985.