The Ministry of Health announced that the government will “adopt new methods to confront the sanitary situation and with attention to health.”
This information was accompanied by shocking statistics about the number of preventable deaths in Choco so far this year.
Twenty deaths were listed in the bulletin, including those of children younger than five years old. Eighteen of the cases were related to the consumption of contaminated water.
The deaths took place in no less than five municipalities of Choco, confirming that the dangerous lack of sanitation is a widespread problem of the region.
This is not the first time that the Colombian government has identified the population of Choco’s urgent need for help. A visit was made to the region in July of last year and alarms were raised then, with no subsequent action.
“All rates are incredibly bad,” Todd Howland, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, commented at the time.
Choco is the department of Colombia with the highest rates of poverty. According to national statistics, 78.5% of the population of Choco lives below the poverty line, with 48.7% considered to be living in extreme poverty.
While 37% of Colombians have unmet basic needs (such as drinking water or primary education), in Choco this figure is 81%, the July 2014 report exposed.
The Ministry of Health’s latest bulletin comes following the visit of Howland and Colombian Ombudsman Jorge Armando Otalora to Choco last week. The officials verified a severe situation of access to health services and high number of preventable infant deaths.
They even reported to have personally witnessed the death of a minor due to diarrheal disease caused by a lack of drinking water upon a visit to the Riosucio health center.
This area of Riosucio will be the primary focus of government attention, along with other municipalities Bagado and Medio San Juan.
Deputy Minister of Public Health Fernando Ruiz Gomez confirmed that a special commission of the Ministry of Health will move to these areas on 11, 12 and 13 March to ensure prompt care to those in most urgent need.
The Ministry also undertook a thorough review of Choco’s healthcare system, in order to restore effective access of the population to essential health services. The community claims that the there is little medical personnel at present, and even fewer specialists.
“The current health care system in the Choco is a failure,” was the statement given by the indigenous people of the region in the report of last year.
Finally, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection plans to continue working in coordination with both the Ministry of Water and Sanitation and the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF), as it has done since last February, to solve the structural problem of basic sanitation conditions in the department of Choco.
“Choco is another Colombia for the national government,” said Lucy Chamorro, representing the Indigenous Department Table, responding to the fact that the no effective government action has followed previous visits to the department of Choco.