Colombia: Fighting disrupts health-care services in northern Cauca
Cali / Bogotá / Geneva, 21 August 2012 – Recent clashes between the armed forces and armed groups have disrupted
health-care services in Toribío and Jambaló districts, in the north of Cauca department in southern Colombia. In the
past few days, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Colombian Red Cross (CRC) have stepped up
their efforts to support the indigenous health-care service in the area by running mobile clinics able to treat more
than 40,000 people.
"The armed conflict is seriously affecting public health," said Pascal Porchet, who heads the ICRC sub-delegation in
Cali. "Security incidents that endanger health-care personnel and facilities are a real cause for concern. All parties
to the conflict have a duty to protect and spare health-care personnel and facilities, whose purpose is to save lives
and to care for children and the elderly, the sick and the wounded," he added.
The mobile clinics provide health care for people living in all 25 villages of Toribío and Jambaló. They are run jointly
by staff from the ICRC and the Colombian Red Cross, including doctors, nurses and psychologists, as well as dental
personnel, health-education staff and vaccination specialists from the indigenous health-care service, which also
supplies vaccines and medicines. The ICRC provides the necessary logistical resources and arranges the security
guarantees that enable the teams to work safely in the area.
As part of the National Society's plan of action to meet humanitarian needs in Cauca, and specifically the strategy on
primary health care for affected communities, priority is being given to promoting health and preventing disease.
"Mental health is a key aspect of the team's work, which is carried out with the help of professional psychologists,"
said Francisco Moreno, director-general of health at the Colombian Red Cross. Through this psychosocial support, the aim
is to boost people's ability to overcome their ordeal.
Already this year, the ICRC has recorded 57 incidents in which health-care provision was disrupted in Colombia, as
against 50 recorded incidents for the whole of 2011. Worryingly, incidents targeting health-care services have been on
the rise since 2010. Attacks on health-care facilities and vehicles, threats against staff and the theft of medical
supplies are all spreading fear in the area. These factors have led to the suspension of health-care services in remote
areas where there is little government presence and people's needs are acute.
The ICRC and the Colombian Red Cross remind all parties to the conflict of their obligation under international
humanitarian law to spare and protect health-care personnel, facilities and vehicles in all circumstances.
One of the ICRC's current priorities in countries affected by armed conflict is to safeguard access to health care.
The International Committee of the Red Cross - working to protect and assist people affected by armed conflict and other
situations of violence. Find out more: www.icrc.org