The Colombian civil war is the most destructive conflict in the Western hemisphere, causing widespread displacement and a legacy of pervasive, severe human rights violations dating back decades. Fighting among guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN), government forces and various paramilitary groups has especially affected rural communities along the Pacific Coast, home to the third largest African diaspora community in the Americas. Hundreds of thousands have fled massacres, torture, kidnapping and forced conscription. During a high point in violence in 2002, more than 4,000 civilians were killed for political motives, over 1,000 people “disappeared” and at least 2,700 people were kidnapped. Severe human rights violations continue, with 200,000 individuals fleeing their homes each year. A vast majority of torture and abuse cases are not reported at all, as a result of fear of retribution and lack of data collection.
In 2011, HAI began delivering mental health services to victims of torture in Afro-Colombian communities, and the organization is working with civil society organizations to address the needs of torture survivors. HAI is increasing mental health treatment for victims of Colombia’s internal conflict by providing treatment for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as suicide education and prevention tailored to indigenous communities. These projects have been developed in a manner that can be replicated throughout the country, and HAI is working with partners from universities, civil society and Colombian government agencies to expand the reach of its models to new regions and diverse populations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.