SAN SALVADOR – The non-governmental organization Medecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) urged the government of El Salvador to recognize the forced displacement crisis linked to generalized violence, with the goal of providing comprehensive care to the victims.
According to physician Saul Romero, head of the Migration and Forced Displacement Program of the NGO’s France and Spain division, the Salvadoran government has made “small progress” to address the situation, including the creation of a victims’ outreach directorate, but these efforts have been “insufficient.”
“When the government starts to recognize the forced displacement crisis, other conditions that are necessary to guarantee victims’ rights will appear (...). We are concerned about access to health care, but other issues are also crucial, such as access to education, housing and justice,” Romero, who has been working with a team of physicians since 2016 to attend victims of displacement, told EFE in San Salvador.
Regarding health care, Romero said that El Salvador “does not provide adequate spaces to attend victims,” who “must be protected by means of all the necessary security measures.”
“Health authorities say that victims who arrive at clinics and hospitals will be cared for, yet they do not have adequate security conditions. So, how can a victim of forced displacement be sure that they will not be identified?” the physician said.
Doctors of the World has been providing medical attention to victims who have been displaced from their homes in the metropolitan area of San Salvador due to threats from gangs controlling their neighborhoods.
“The situation is alarming, because we only attend victims in the metropolitan area of San Salvador, but violence in this country is generalized and there are surely many victims who are not being cared for,” Romero said.
The physician said Doctors of the World attends people who have health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, dermatological problems, allergies and respiratory infections brought on by the trauma and stress of having been displaced by violence.
The NGO also has a group of psychologists to attend people with anxiety disorders, posttraumatic stress, sleeping disorders and depression.
Romero made it clear that Doctors of the World is not in El Salvador to replace the government, as caring for the victims of violence throughout the whole country can only be done by the state.
“As with other non-governmental organizations, we are not here to replace the state. We strive to carry out humanitarian work, but we are convinced that the government has the responsibility to act,” he said.
According to information provided by Doctors of the World, between January and August 2018, 219 victims of forced displacement have been attended by the NGO, including 116 women, while in 2017 the organization provided care to 125 people.