people in humanitarian need and affected by violence in 2021
© Quentin Top
of armed conflict prior to the peace agreement signed in 2016
people in need of healthcare
Médecins du Monde’s emergency response includes a range of humanitarian assistance programmes. Find out more below about our work and missions in Colombia.
THE HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN COLOMBIA
For many years, internal conflicts in Colombia, in particular between the army and the FARC, have threatened and sometimes violated the rights of communities. The Covid-19 pandemic and migration from neighbouring Venezuela have only served to magnify these problems, especially in remote areas where humanitarian access is still difficult.
Our humanitarian mission in Colombia therefore has several priorities which include protecting human rights and developing a medical assistance plan to address the lack of healthcare.
TOO MANY CONFLICT VICTIMS
The security situation, the challenging geographical terrain and the location of communities in remote areas have all made humanitarian access in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic difficult. It is estimated that 77 million people are in need, of whom 2.9 million are in acute need due to the security situation and lack of access to essential services.
In 2021, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights documented 66 massacres during which 255 people were killed. This tragic tally comes in addition to the murders of 120 human rights leaders and defenders.
VULNERABLE REMOTE COMMUNITIES
In the isolated rural areas of Meta, Guaviare, Nariño, Cauca, Valle del Cauca and Chocó Departments 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.
Armed violence and population movements make women and sexual minorities vulnerable.
cases of gender-based violence in 2021
cases of gender-based violence in 2021
The arrival of Covid-19 had a serious impact on the economy, triggering a deep recession, with the most vulnerable communities being most severely affected. The repercussions of the pandemic have also been felt by the country’s healthcare system and can be seen in the indicators for food security nutrition and protection. The humanitarian situation in the country has suffered disruption and multisectoral needs have increased. The results of the Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) show that the number of people with multisectoral needs rose by 31% in 2021.
RECURRING NATURAL DISASTERS
The frequency and severity of extreme weather events linked to climate change also lead to humanitarian need and exacerbate the vulnerability of local Colombian communities as well as of refugees and migrants from Venezuela.
The effects of the La Niña weather pattern in the last few months of 2021 had serious consequences for the lives and livelihoods of the communities affected, in particular due to the impact of severe flooding and torrential rain, especially in coastal areas.
Access to healthcare, including emergency care, suffered large-scale disruption. In 2021, around 600,000 people were affected by natural disasters.
THE VENEZUELAN MIGRATION CRISIS
The political and humanitarian situation in Venezuela is having huge repercussions in Colombia.
Colombia hosts more Venezuelan migrants than any other country, with 1.9 million displaced people, accounting for 43% of the 4.2 million Venezuelans in the region (including dual nationals and people commuting between the two countries). Only 20% of them have access to healthcare services and social security and they are particularly at risk from sexual exploitation networks, drug trafficking and forced recruitment.
© Quentin Top
OUR HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE IN COLOMBIA
The aim of Médecins du Monde’s humanitarian assistance in Colombia is to provide support for local services and to ensure access to care for the communities affected by conflict.
THE MIRE HUMANITARIAN CONSORTIUM
Since the peace agreement, Médecins du Monde has redirected its activities towards rural areas in order to provide an emergency response during peak periods of violence, especially when there are attacks by paramilitary groups, large-scale displacements and communities are confined to their homes. In partnership with two other international NGOs, we deploy a team of doctors, psychologists, social workers and specialists in nutrition, child protection and hygiene and sanitation.
Médecins du Monde provided training to the MIRE Humanitarian Consortium (an intersectoral emergency response mechanism) to enable it to deliver global and multisector services in health, emergency education, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), protection, shelter and nutrition.
Our humanitarian work in Colombia focuses mostly on emergency primary healthcare – particularly general medicine, sexual and reproductive healthcare and mental healthcare – for the groups most affected and for victims of the conflict. This allows the humanitarian mission in Colombia, together with the Consortium, to prioritise the most serious emergencies. The idea behind this approach is to work with the local authorities and involve existing institutions in order to establish sustainable services.
Between March 2020 and March 2021 the MIRE Humanitarian Consortium was involved in 73 humanitarian emergencies resulting from armed conflict, Covid-19 and natural disasters.
ENDING 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 healthcare facilities in Meta, Guaviare, Nariño, Cauca, Valle del Cauca and Chocó.
The projects include workshops for communities, healthcare institutions and community leaders on issues such as domestic, gender-based and sexual violence and how to identify and report incidents and provide support.
CARING FOR VENEZUELAN MIGRANTS
Médecins du Monde supports many people throughout the country at different points on their migration journey. In 2021 projects to provide assistance to migrant groups centred on Bogotá, Soacha, Cali and Ipiales, on the border with Ecuador.
The aim was to support the groups most at risk (minors and victims of sexual and labour exploitation) and to ensure migrants in transit receive healthcare and psychosocial support. In 2021, 45% of primary healthcare services were provided to migrants and over 60% of the sexual and reproductive health consultations were for migrant women.
TACKLING THE COVID-19 CRISIS
Médecins du Monde took action to address Covid-19 by incorporating it into our biosecurity protocols and integrating isolation and prevention measures into our programmes. A procedure was drawn up for the referral of suspected cases to health centres. All our project teams ran workshops with the local population and community leaders on prevention and identifying positive cases.
We also implemented two emergency medical assistance projects in Colombia’s Amazon region (Amazonas, Guainía and Vichada Departments) to support the medical services and help with controlling the epidemic in indigenous communities through prevention and health promotion activities. This region was particularly badly affected by the virus, with high rates of cases and deaths.
A LAND WHERE TERROR PERSISTS
On 24 November 2016, after 52 years of armed conflict that led to 220,000 deaths, 40,000 disappearances and six million people being displaced, a peace agreement was signed between the Colombian government and the FARC.
While the overall situation does show some signs of improvement, the violence linked to “the worst humanitarian crisis in the Western hemisphere” persists in Colombia today. At least five other armed groups (ELN, EPL, FARC Dissidents, Clan del Golfo a.k.a Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia) are still inflicting terror and death on the civilian population.
Much remains to be done in order to respond to the humanitarian emergency in Colombia, including restoring access to healthcare in rural areas affected by the conflict and reintegrating the guerrilla fighters into civilian life.
IN 2021, WE:
- provided assistance to 78,484 people,
- provided 43,872 primary healthcare consultations,
- provided 15,250 sexual and reproductive health consultations,
- supported 9 health centres,
- provided 9,900 mental health and psychosocial support consultations,
- advised and/or provided legal support to 1,800 people,
- delivered awareness-raising sessions on Covid-19 prevention measures to 11,772 people.
Beneficiaries in 2021
Budget in 2021
Beneficiaries in 2021
Budget in 2021
Médecins du Monde starts working with the indigenous communities of Apaporis.
Programme with street children begins. Ends in 2000.
Intervention in Chocó Department in response to effects of the armed conflict. Ends in 2011.
2003End of the indigenous communities programme; intervention in Meta Department in response to effects of the armed conflict.
Start of intervention in Nariño.
Peace agreement signed with the FARC and start of reflection process on how our activities should be adapted.