The human cost of Colombian conflict

Colombia is a thriving country with a lively culture and growing level of progress. It has modern cities and flourishing scientific and education centres. But behind this upbeat image, an extremely violent, internal conf lict has carried on unabated for decades. Fuelled by drug trafficking and foreign military assistance, the struggle by guerillas, paramilitary groups and government forces to control territory and resources continues to take a high toll on the civilian population.

People who live in conf lict zones in rural Colombia are often perceived as resources for the armed actors who operate locally.

"We were taken somewhere and they started to threaten us and talk about chainsaws. After awhile, they let us go. I grabbed my kids and we left immediately for another town. We left only with the clothes we were wearing; we walked all night and part of the day, and the kids kept asking for food..." mother from a rural community

Violence is the leading cause of death in Colombia. During the last decade, the homicide rate has been approximately 60 per 100,000 inhabitants, one of the highest rates in the world. For every person who dies as a result of violence, many more struggle to survive it, often burdened by a range of physical and mental problems.

"The man was found wandering around town. He said he was feeling bad, but he could not explain what was wrong. He kept talking and crying...tears went down his cheeks and when we asked him why he was crying, he said 'Am I crying?' and he cleaned his face, started crying again and kept repeating he did not feel well. He was disoriented, confused, with mental blackouts, he could not remember what had happened." community leader, rural area

"My mother cannot sleep...if she hears a motorbike out in the streets she wakes up and cannot fall asleep again...the thing is that last week we had to pick up our brother-in-law. He was almost unrecognizable. They had beaten him up, and his head was chopped off. I can't get that image out of my head." young man living in an urban slum

From Living in Fear, Colombia's Cycle of Violence, a 64-page report compiled by MSF to raise awareness of the human cost of the conf lict by giving a voice to those who must bear its harsh consequences.