years of armed conflict until the peace agreement signed in 2016
people in need of humanitarian assistance
migrants from Venezuela
In the isolated rural areas of the departments of Meta, Guaviare, Nariño, Cauca, Valle del Cauca and Chocó the nearest health centre is sometimes several hours away on foot or by dugout canoe. In these conditions, accessing the most basic health services is extremely dangerous.
The isolation of the people who live in these regions also leads to malnutrition and diseases linked to poor water quality. The situation is further exacerbated by the rape and violence suffered by women at the hands of armed groups or within the family. Widespread social control of women’s bodies by armed groups, sexual violence and other types of gender-based violence have a recurring and fundamental impact in areas where armed actors and illegal economies have a strong presence. There has also been a sharp rise in sexual violence against women human rights defenders.
282,800 female survivors of sexual violence in 2019
Five years after the signing of the peace agreement between the government and the FARC on 24 November 2016, the difficulty of its implementation has led to persistent violence in several areas and a number of armed groups continue to fight for control of territory previously held by the FARC.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), there are five ongoing internal conflicts in Colombia, which led to the forced displacement of over 25,000 people in 2019. The armed conflict has also helped to maintain a climate of fear and mistrust, with almost 28,000 people being confined to their homes and 400,000 more being subjected to movement restrictions. In addition, 250 community leaders and 77 former guerrillas who were part of the peace process were assassinated and there were 218 attacks against the medical mission, the highest number since the peace agreement was signed.
13 million people are affected by the conflict, including 7,700,000 who have been internally displaced.
Furthermore, the political and humanitarian situation in Venezuela is having enormous repercussions in Colombia, which hosts more Venezuelan migrants than any other country. Over the course of three years, the number of migrants has risen from 39,000 to 3.5 million. Only 20% of them have access to healthcare services and social security. Because of their high level of vulnerability they are particularly at risk from sexual exploitation networks, drug trafficking and forced recruitment. This has also contributed to an increase in stigmatisation and discrimination against the Venezuelan community.
Since the peace agreement, Médecins du Monde has redirected its activities towards rural areas in order to provide an emergency response in the event of peaks periods of violence in Colombia, especially during attacks by paramilitary groups, large-scale displacements and communities being confined to their homes. In partnership with two other international NGOs, Medecins du Monde deploys a team made up of doctors, psychologists and social workers and specialists in nutrition, hygiene and sanitation, and child protection.
Working on gender-based violence
Médecins du Monde also focuses on protecting survivors of sexual violence, supporting them to set up self-help groups and ensuring they receive holistic care and treatment that respects their rights at the healthcare facilities in Meta, Guaviare, Nariño, Cauca, Valle del Cauca and Chocó.
Caring for the venezuelan migrants
The arrival of enormous numbers of Venezuelan migrants in Colombia prompted Médecins du Monde to offer support to many people on Colombia’s southern border with Ecuador. The aim is to provide assistance to the most vulnerable groups (minors and victims of sexual and labour exploitation) and to ensure migrants in transit receive healthcare and psychosocial support.
In the course of its various interventions in Colombia, Médecins du Monde works in partnership with numerous academics and civil society organisations which actively promote respect for human rights and access to healthcare. In particular, we work with the Salud Paz network, which brings together medics and academics who are actively defending the right to health for all. Another important partner is the organisation Mesa por la Vida y la Salud de las Mujeres, which focuses on issues of women’s access to healthcare and especially the decriminalisation of abortion.
Did you know?
On 24 November 2016, after 52 years of armed conflict, a peace agreement was signed between the Colombian government and the FARC. While the overall situation does show some signs of improvement, “the worst humanitarian crisis in the Western hemisphere” has led to 220,000 deaths, 40,000 disappearances and 6 million people being displaced.
The violence continues in Colombia and at least five other armed groups (ELN, EPL, FARC Dissidents, Clan del Golfo and Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia) are still inflicting terror and death on the civilian population.
Much remains for Médecins du Monde to do in Colombia in order to restore access to healthcare in rural areas affected by the conflict and to reintegrate the guerrillas into civilian life.
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