Home News Suicides in Alto Baudó, an emergency that must be addressed

Suicides in Alto Baudó, an emergency that must be addressed

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Suicides in Alto Baudó, an emergency that must be addressed

For Ana Maria Ceron Caceresin co-authorship with Laura Garzon Triana and Maria Fernanda Rodriguez Abello.

Many young people, especially women, have died or are close to dying in Alto Baudó.

The Embera dobida people, the people of the river, do not have a word to describe suicide. They say “ichi tubua osanga peusi” when a person hangs himself. This expression is frequently used in Alto Baudó, Chocó.

Nine people have been treated for suicidal behavior since October 2022 by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and we have received news of two completed suicides during the month of December, all in Alto Baudó.

An alarming figure, especially if one considers the size of the population (13,138 Embera people live in the municipality, according to figures from the Dane [1]). Legal Medicine recorded seven suicides in the department during 2021 and eight between January and November 2022 [2].

However, underreporting is large because the presence of institutions in rural areas is very limited, people have difficulties accessing health services, and the reporting route is unknown or cannot be used, either due to problems of communication or connectivity.

The health of the Embera people is linked to the life and health of the “êjuã”, which is usually translated as territory and which suffers from the extraction of resources, the installation of mines and the fighting.

Situations such as confinement, forced displacement [3] and recruitment weaken communities. The “jaibanás”, who historically have been responsible for caring for the links between the Embera people, the community and the “êjuã”, have become targets in the armed conflict.

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When they disappear the health of the population is threatened. This is how Danilo Chamorro Casama, a young Embera man who works as a cultural mediator in the MSF project, explains it.

Most of the people who try to “nãūn êjuã baekirîebua”, who want to leave the territory or die, are young.

They are facing a world in permanent transformation without the certainties and protection that past generations had. The situation is very serious, because after a suicide attempt occurs in a community, it is more likely that others will occur.

In addition, there are many cases involving women. For them, the problems related to the alcohol consumption of their partners and the associated violence have a direct impact on their physical and mental health.

The Embera people must be guaranteed life in “êjuã”. MSF has been working on this path, in a process that involves psychologists, cultural mediators, the area’s health authorities and, especially, community health promoters, who are learning to detect signs of alarm so that those who need it can receive timely care.

At times when the country’s health is being discussed, it is essential that the government guide actions to address mental health discomforts, that respond to the characteristics and needs of the different populations and in accordance with the right of indigenous peoples to a differential and community ethnic approach.

1. DANE. National Population and Housing Census 2018. http://systema59.dane.gov.co/bincol/RpWebEngine.exe/Portal?BASE=CNPVBASE4V2&lang=esp

2. National Institute of Legal Medicine. 2021 and 2022. https://www.medicinalegal.gov.co/cifras-de-lesiones-de-causa-externa.

3. OCHA estimates that during 2022 there were some 23,904 people confined in Alto Baudó and some 366 who were displaced.

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