We are shifting our focus in Colombia away from conflict-related projects to providing mental healthcare
Colombia is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world.
Situated in the northwest of South America, it is bordered by Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru and is the fourth largest country in the region.
It has rich oil reserves and is a major producer of gold, silver, emeralds, platinum and coal.
Despite the government and Farc rebels signing a historic peace accord in 2016, ending 52 years of conflict, violence involving armed groups and drug cartels is still rife.
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) first worked in Colombia in 1985.
Our work in the country focuses on providing care for victims of armed conflict and to those excluded from healthcare.
In 2016, we continued to assist victims of urban violence and sexual violence, and responded to emergency situations.
Due to the peace process, there has been a decrease in the number of clashes between armed groups, but civilians continue to be caught up in violence as criminal organisations fight for control of territory.
Colombians are exposed to murder, forced displacement, extortion, sexual violence and confinement.
“My sons still ask me what happened to their father. I tell them you need to forgive to feel good. But they are angry and ask why they did that to their father and uncle. The older one was very sad and missed him a lot. The MSF psychologist has helped us overcome the pain and she has guided me a lot because there are times when you don´t know how to explain things to children. With her you can open up.”
In 2016, our teams focused on the urban areas of Tumaco and Buenaventura. They offered psychological support to 3,953 people affected by violence exercised in the context of organised crime and by armed groups that have arisen in the current post-conflict situation.
Teams also provided comprehensive care for 722 victims of sexual violence. In Buenaventura, where access to care is sometimes restricted, our staff provided 1,710 consultations through the ‘psychological helpline’, a confidential telephone counselling service set up in 2015 for victims of violence, including sexual violence, and people with severe mental health problems.
All users of this helpline are offered follow-up consultations.
In Tumaco, we cared for 461 sexual violence survivors. Our teams also started activities related to voluntary termination of pregnancy for victims of sexual violence.
We continued to coordinate an emergency response team that intervenes in emergencies and monitors the health and humanitarian situation in areas most affected by armed conflict.
During the year, the team conducted 2,012 primary healthcare consultations and 2,677 mental health consultations, mainly for displaced people in the departments of Antioquia, Chocó, Córdoba and Norte de Santander.
Find out more in our International Activity Report.