Civilians Caught in Colombia's Crossfire
Forgotten by much of the world, Colombia's enduring conflict continues to inflict great misery on civilians. More than three million people have been displaced within the country, usually to vast shantytowns on the outskirts of major cities, and violence is still the leading cause of death. While control over coca, oil, timber, and other resources fuels the decades-long conflict, half of Colombians live in poverty. In many areas, it is nearly impossible for people to stay outside the conflict, as both government and anti-government forces consider everyone a potential informer or collaborator. In areas where control changes hands, civilians caught in the middle can be threatened, attacked, or killed. Various armed factions fight for control inside the shanty towns, making violence and intimidation a part of people's daily lives. Medical personnel are threatened, patients have been forcibly removed from ambulances and executed, and health structures are repeatedly looted. Even medical supplies have become a strategic objective. Diagnostic tools and treatments for cutaneous leishmaniasis are heavily controlled because the disease, which primarily affects people in rural areas, is viewed as a marker for possible rebels or their supporters. Living in a state of continuous fear has taken a predictable toll on people's mental health, as well. Some patients walk for hours to a clinic seeking treatment for headaches, when medicines are available in their villages. Subsequent consultations often lead to discussions with mental health personnel that reveal the terrifying conditions of life in Colombia.
Read more about Colombia here – http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/news/colombia.cfm. View a photo essay, "The Human Face of Conflict," here – http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/publications/ar/i2001/humanface.cfm.
Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is an international independent medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural and man-made disasters, and exclusion from health care in nearly 70 countries. Learn more about the work of Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) here – http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org