Colombia: MSF provides mental health support to those affected by the attack in the Timba district, in the Cauca region

A mobile team from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is in the Timba district, in the municipality of Buenos Aires in the Cauca region of southwest Colombia, assisting the local population after a confrontation in which 10 soldiers died early on Wednesday morning.

Timba is located one hour from La Esperanza, where the incident occurred and where a second team of two psychologists and a doctor hopes to get to this afternoon to assess the needs of the local population if humanitarian access is possible.

“The incident has happened in a well-populated rural neighbourhood, so the impact on mental health in the civil population could be significant”, explains Pierre Garrigou, MSF Head of Mission in Colombia. “There could also be people who have been displaced and have psychological and medical needs to attend to”.

Despite the reduction in the intensity of the conflict, the international aid organization keeps three teams of psychologists in this region. “Our mobile teams are always ready to respond immediately to sudden events in rural areas, where mental health is not offered in primary health centers”, adds Garrigou.

This is the most serious armed incident since the start of the truce in December and coincides with the peace negotiations the government and FARC guerrillas are currently holding in Havana.

MSF has been working in Colombia since 1985 in the Cauca and Nariño regions. In Cauca, MSF teams provide individual and group therapy in hospitals and neighbourhoods. They train community leaders, health promoters, midwives and teachers to provide psychological first aid when a violent incident occurs.

In 2014, MSF teams gave 1,247 psychological consultations in the Cauca mountain range.