BOGOTÁ, Colombia – The medical mission has been the target of at least 256 attacks during protests against the Colombian government that began on April 28, according to a report presented on Wednesday by the Ministry of Health to international organizations.
So they ask that vehicles with health personnel be allowed to circulate so that tragedies such as the death of two premature babies in ambulances do not recur.
“This report involves the main incidents (attacks) on the medical mission in Colombia. In this report we have shown that so far 256 attacks have been presented,” said the Minister of Health, Fernando Ruiz, when presenting the document.
Blockades on roads and exits from cities maintained by some protesters are making it difficult for emergency health care and the arrival of supplies to hospitals and essential material in the country, which is going through its worst wave of the pandemic, such as oxygen or vaccines against COVID -19.
“In the 2019 protests there were attacks against health personnel and against the medical mission, but the significant increase in the period of these three weeks is clear and evident,” the Deputy Minister of Health, Luis Alexander Moscoso, assured Efe.
The protests in Colombia began on April 28 against the now defunct tax reform, but have continued since then with serious accusations of the excessive use of force by the police, which has left 43 dead.
To date, Moscoso asserted that there have been “169 severe damages against the medical mission,” with some of the worst episodes experienced in recent days.
The situation in Colombia is critical, food is scarce and roads are still blocked in some areas due to the national strike. Homan machuca spoke exclusively with the Colombian consul, Claudia Bustamante and here a preview of this dialogue with the Colombian representative abroad.
TWO DEAD BABIES
Last Saturday several ambulances were attacked in the Portal de las Américas, one of the neighborhoods where protests persist in Bogotá, after messages on social networks falsely said that the Police were using these vehicles to transport ammunition and troops.
“The ambulances operate independently and we have wanted to be away from the political context of the situation,” claimed the vice minister, who stressed that they only seek “to protect and take care of people’s health.”
Also last Saturday, the death of a newborn baby who was transferred from the port city of Buenaventura (in the southwest) to Cali to receive intensive care was reported, when the ambulance was prevented from passing at dawn.
This is the second case of this type after another ambulance heading to Bogotá was attacked on May 4 in the town of Tocancipá to take a mother in preterm labor, whose baby could not survive.
“This is a direct issue of intolerance and (of) not understanding the rights of other people or the medical mission that what it does is protect the lives of others,” said Moscoso.
The executive director of the Colombian Red Cross, Francisco Moreno, explained to Efe that there is a “cluster of circumstances” that are leading young people who protest to behave in this way, “a general distrust” and that there are also “many exalted spirits at these points of concentration that sometimes do not allow all people to reason well “.
Of the 256 documented attacks, 123 occurred in the department of Valle del Cauca, whose capital, Cali, continues to be the epicenter of the greatest acts of violence, and there were also high numbers in Norte de Santander (41), Bogotá (18), Huila (17), Cauca (16), and Cundinamarca and Nariño (six in each), among other departments.
For his part, the head of the ICRC Delegation in Colombia, Lorenzo Caraffi, warned that attacks against the medical mission have increased considerably this year, since in all of 2020 there were 325 attacks.
“It is a problem that has been increasing a lot and the attacks against the medical mission this year show this, even outside the demonstrations,” said Caraffi.
10 days have passed since the protests in Colombia that have left death and division in that country.
RISKS DUE TO ROAD BLOCKS
Minister Ruiz also warned about the risk to which patients in Intensive Care Units (ICU) have been exposed due to the 39 blockades of important roads in the country that have affected the supply of oxygen and essential supplies for people in chronic kidney treatment who require dialysis.
Roadblocks maintained by some protesters are hindering emergency health care and the arrival of supplies to hospitals in Colombia, which is going through its deadliest wave due to the coronavirus pandemic, such as oxygen or vaccines against COVID-19.
“I want to ask you to collaborate with us so that the blockades on the country’s roads and the attacks on the medical mission cease,” said the minister during the meeting in which delegates from the Ombudsman’s Office, the Foreign Ministry, the Agency for the United States for Development (USAID), the San Ignacio University Hospital, the National Police and the Ministry of Labor.
Ruiz stressed that together with the Red Cross and other entities, the National Medical Mission Board has organized humanitarian caravans to ensure that the supply of medicines and vaccines in areas paralyzed by the blockades.
“I want to remember the importance of all medical actors, forcefully reject all attacks, we regret that false news leads to violence and I join the call to respect the emblem of the Red Cross and all humanitarian missions,” said for his part the ambassador to Colombia of the European Union, Patricia Llombart.