Ghosts in the big city: surviving and adapting to internal displacement in Colombia, South America

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Abstract

The signing of the truce on 23 June 2016 and the finalisation of peace negotiations on 24 August 2016 marked the end of more than 50 years of continuous armed conflict in Colombia, South America and the transition to ‘post conflict’ status. According to annual reports from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre based in Geneva, Switzerland, Colombia has ranked first or second in numbers of internally displaced persons every year for the past 12 years, making forced migration a defining characteristic of the country. This is based on the personal reflections of a mother and daughter (ER and AdPGR) who were displaced from rural Colombia and resettled in the nation's urban capital of Bogotá. They survived the rigors and hardships of displacement and became capable counsellors on a global mental health project, bringing evidence based interventions to a highly traumatised population of internally displaced women in Bogotá. Their account speaks to the lived experiences of more than six million Colombian internally displaced ‘victims of the armed conflict’. Particularly notable is the description of myriad trauma exposures prior to the moment of displacement. This field report demonstrates how personal accounts are a useful tool for educating clinicians working with these populations.

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