The International Day of Peace, celebrated every year on September 21, is a global opportunity to reflect on how each institution can contribute to conflict reduction and the elimination of violence. PAHO/WHO, through the Area on Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief, emphasizes in this celebration a contribution to peace in Colombia through the provision of health care for the population displaced due to violence.
At only three years old, Juan David Martinez has already been a victim of violence. In the space of one day, the little boy and his sister had to exchange their toys, school, home and all the comforts they knew due to fear and mistrust. They had to join, along with their parents, the population displaced due to violence and the presence of illegal armed groups in Colombia. According to the Department of Social Prosperity, the forced displacement affects at present approximately 3.9 million Colombians.
"After a very long walk we arrived at a farm but we felt really bad and our children cried a lot. At that moment, we did not have any kind of public assistance and we all got sick. Since Juan David is autistic and he did not receive treatment, he became very aggressive. He went back in the recovery process and he could not walk despite the stimulation exercises that I did with him” says Juan David’s mother, a 26 year old strong woman.
The displaced communities' lack of knowledge regarding their health rights is enormous and they find many barriers when looking for health care. This fact increases the tension among people and makes the daily life of displaced communities even more difficult. Juan David’s mother asked for support in several local associations and, fortunately, she received guidance that ensured that her son received the attention of specialists in pediatric surgery, speech therapy, neurology and all that was needed to restore his health.
Today Juan David, who represents one of the faces of violence in Colombia, has made great improvements. The neurologist confirmed the type of autism that he has in order to define what actions to take and he is now receiving the proper treatment. "He is not aggressive anymore and I hope that everything will be fine now" commented his mother.
These advances in the provision of health services are becoming more evident thanks to the work of several departmental health institutions and the political will of Colombian institutions as well as international organizations such as the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), through the Program of Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief (PED) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The achievement, however is of the communities, who are aiming for a better life, and have gotten together in order to reclaim their health rights as part of the “Healthy Route” (Ruta Saludable) program, that is making health services for displaced populations timely and easily accessible.
Story written by the Pan American Health Organization Office in Colombia.
Names of the protagonists have been changed.
More information on the International Day of Peace: http://www.un.org/en/events/peaceday/.