How we’re helping in Colombia

Continuing to assist victims of violence in the aftermath of the peace process

An exhibition on enforced disappearances at the University of Santiago in Cali.
Colombia 2018 © MSF
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Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) supports migrants, relatives of victims of forced disappearances, displaced people, and victims of violence in Colombia.

MSF is currently working along the border with Venezuela to assist Venezuelan migrants. In Norte de Santander, Arauca, and La Guajira departments, our teams work in hospitals and via mobile clinics to support Venezuelan migrants without access to medical services, as well as those who pass through on their way to other places. Also among our patients are Colombian returnees who had crossed into Venezuela fleeing violence in their country decades before, and who are no longer recognized by the national health system.

Our teams along the border focus on providing primary and sexual and reproductive health care. This is in large part because migrants and others not affiliated with the national system are only legally entitled to receive emergency care at state health facilities, which leaves large and dangerous gaps in essential medical services, especially for pregnant women and children who develop illnesses due to inadequate living conditions. MSF teams also offer mental health care; treatment for chronic diseases including asthma, diabetes and hypertension; and social worker services.

In spite of the peace process between the government and the FARC rebel group, there are still frequent outbreaks of violence in some areas of the country. Thousands of civilians are subjected to forced confinement or displacement due to clashes between armed groups and criminal organizations over territory, and many community leaders have been assassinated. In 2018, our emergency team traveled to Chocó, Norte de Santander, and Arauca to assist people displaced by the conflict and called for more aid to be delivered to the affected communities.

consultations in 2018
mental health consultations
patients treated after incidents of sexual violence

In Cali (Valle del Cauca) and Puerto Asís (Putumayo), our teams offered psychological care and support from social workers to people whose family members had been forcibly disappeared during the years of conflict in Colombia.

More than 11,600 relatives of victims of forced disappearances participated in group activities run by MSF psychologists in 2018, and 443 benefited from individual and family interventions.

In Buenaventura (Valle del Cauca), we provide psychological support for victims of violence, comprehensive care for victims of sexual violence, and termination of pregnancy for women who request it. MSF was one of the organizations that spoke out against a legislative initiative that sought (unsuccessfully) to restrict access to voluntary termination of pregnancy in Colombia.


MSF projects in Colombia

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We warned of the barriers—geographical, economic, and cultural—that exist for women seeking safe abortions, even with liberal legislation in place that is protective of women’s rights. All our projects in Colombia offer treatment for victims of sexual violence and termination of pregnancy on request.

In 2018, the teams in Buenaventura also offered emergency medical assistance and relief kits to indigenous and Afro-Colombian people who had been displaced from their communities in rural areas by conflicts between armed or criminal groups.

In addition, they ran a telephone helpline and mental health consultations in the neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city affected by territorial disputes between criminal groups.

We completed our project in Tumaco (Nariño), where we had been treating victims of violence, including victims of sexual violence, but we will retain a presence in the city as it will become the base for our emergency response team for Nariño and the surrounding area.

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