The humanitarian crisis in Colombia
3 February 2005
The meeting of donors for Colombia will be held in Cartagena de Indias on February 3-4. According to MSF, authorities are failing to address and prioritise the internal displacement phenomenon aggravating the humanitarian crisis affecting the country. In an open letter sent to the donors, MSF asks for an increase of resources to assist and protect millions of internally displaced people (IDPs), ensuring IDPs the aid they are entitled to by right of law, and urging the Colombian Government to promote the respect for international humanitarian law, in order to improve the living conditions of the affected population. Internal displacement leads to a humanitarian crisis reflected in the overcrowded, precarious and marginalized situation in which IDPs are living. This leads to an increase of malnutrition rates as well as respiratory infections and diarrhoea diseases, especially among elderly, women and children. Psychological disorders caused by violence (posttraumatic stress, anxiety or insomnia) also exacerbate due to uncertainty and dependency. MSF teams in their consultations conducted in Altos de CazucÃ?¡ between January and December 2004 detected chronic malnutrition in 29% of the children under five years of age, including 6.1% moderate acute malnutrition cases, both figures exceeding by far the national average rates at about 9%. Respiratory tract infections followed at 26% (43% among children under 5). The main morbidity causes among the population for the same period of time included diseases frequent in such living conditions, i.e. respiratory tract infections (26% of the patients seen and 43% among children under 5) and infectious and parasitic diseases (22% of the consultations and 32% among children under 5). It is paramount that all parts in the conflict as well as Colombian authorities avoid and prevent abuses that provoke forced displacement. With a displaced population estimated at three million people, Colombia is among the countries with the highest IDP population in the world, next to countries such as Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. MSF has worked in Colombia since 1985.