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Colombia: Health mission launched in north

Briefing notes

Colombia: Health mission launched in north

11 November 2003

Last weekend UNHCR and the local NGO Programme for Development and Peace in the Magdelena Media launched an unprecedented health project, bringing health workers to Colombia's remote and volatile San Pedro in Landázuri municipality in the northern province of Santander. Under the project, doctors and dentists from the Landázuri Hospital and the Industrial University of Santander, with support from the Colombian Red Cross, treated 419 cases (including 157 women and 207 children) from San Pedro and the surrounding communities. Some patients walked up to 4 hours to be treated. Infants, children, pregnant women and the elderly were given priority for treatment, which included medicine against parasites and tropical diseases prevalent in the area, vaccination against diphtheria, meningitis, German measles, polio, yellow fever, whooping cough and hepatitis B (only 20% of children were vaccinated), dental treatment (some 90% of children had dental problems, according to the dentists) and health education and prevention.

Access to San Pedro is very difficult due to the rugged terrain and the fact that the zone is in dispute between various irregular armed groups. The population of Landázuri has been considered at high risk of displacement since May 2002. Since the local health post in San Pedro was abandoned two and a half years ago because of the violence, the population had not received any health assistance.

Meanwhile in neighbouring Venezuela, twenty six community health promoters graduated on Saturday 8 November from a health training course in the locality of Ureña in the State of Táchira. The training, organized by UNHCR and Caritas, was designed to train communities on basic medicine and hygiene in order to help them prevent common ailments such as water-borne and skin diseases and parasites.