Mission December 2019

Where: Bogotá, Colombia

When: 9 – 13 December 2019

Who: Universidad Externado#decemb2019, Ministerio de Salud y Proteccíon Social (MoH) and DIGNITY, represented by Public Health Advisor Marie Louise Drivsholm Østergaard

Main activities, outcomes and conclusions:

The mission had a different setup than the foregoing missions, as it was less formalized, with fewer official activities and meetings, but on the other hand Marie Louise was integrated  in various project-related tasks throughout the week as a part of the team at the university. Furthermore she met with our partners from the MoH, Yenni Bajas and Nubia Bautista

When Marie Louise arrived in Colombia the pilot-testing of the first version of the questionnaire was already taking place (7th – 11th of December). The pilot consisted of 20 questionnaires in the capitals in each of the municipios, in which areas with higher a degree of victimization were selected.

During the week the questionnaire’s content and structure was revised in several rounds. Midway through the week the final results from the first pilot-testing arrived, and also taken into consideration before making an agreement on the final structure. Furthermore, the programming of the online version of the questionnaire was carefully checked (in the program Survey123, which University Externado has experience in using). Next step is to make a detailed plan for the statistical analyses.

Marie Louise presented the outline of medical student Kristine Steensberg’s thesis “Inquiring Issues: Secondary Trauma in Research Personnel”. The thesis includes a proposal on a study of secondary traumatization among interviewers in the project, and it was agreed that this study will take place alongside the quantitative data-collection.

On the last day of the mission, a meeting was held in the project steering group, Comité Técnico, with online participation of Jens Modvig from DIGNITY. Project progress was assessed, and agreements were made regarding upcoming tasks, mostly including the datacollection of the quantitative study, and the design of the upcoming in-depth qualitative study.

Mission March 2019

Where: Bogotá, Colombia

When: : 4 - 8 March 2019

Who: Universidad Externado, Ministerio de Salud y Proteccíon Social (MoH), Ministerio de Justicia y del Derecho (MoJ), the Danish Embassy in Colombia, Enna Sofie Vendelbo Petersen (Danish student volunteering) and DIGNITY

Main activities, outcomes and conclusions
This was the first mission taking place since the project was officially launched. As such, a lot of activities revolved around formalizing collaborations, discussing the study’s key concepts and agreeing on how interventions should be carried out and in which municipalities, and creating and action plan for the three coming months.

Partners held a skype conference with mental health representatives from various project departments which provided insight into the post-conflict issues in focus, namely drug abuse and suicide among adolescents. A model was subsequently developed, laying out the potential interactions between conflict, mental health and vulnerability factors such as stigma and low social capital.

Regarding the methodology of the study, partners defined scientific concepts and are now working towards identifying what concepts to prioritize both in the quantitative and qualitative data collection design. Furthermore, Dignity was trained and granted access to health data bases.

Dignity met with the Danish Ambassador in Colombia to get a feel of the current political developments. Dignity also met with the Ministry of Justice to get an insight into the penitentiary system and discuss potential collaborations between Denmark and Colombia in this field.

Mission September 2018

Where: Bogotá, Colombia

When: 17-21 September 2018

Who: Universidad Externado de Colombia – Facultad de Ciencias Sociales, Ministerio de Salud y Protección Social (the Colombian Ministry of Health), Ministerio de Justicia, ARN (La Agencia Colombiana para la Reincorporación y Normalización), JEP (Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz), UNHCHR, PAPSIVI (Programa de atención psicosocial y salud integral a víctimas del conflicto armado) and Unidad de las Víctimas

Main activities, outcomes and conclusions
There has been a political shift from the peace process to a new health policy which includes focus on mental health and particularly drug misuse and post-conflict related trauma. This has not affected the support the project has received from the Ministry of Health.

Adjustments to the contracts with both the Ministry of Health and the Universidad Externado are still being made, in order to enable the final signatures from all partners.

The website in question (www.mentalhealthcolombia.org) was created to provide general information on the project and disseminate a monthly newsletter written by new DIGNITY Volunteer Enna Sofie Vendelbo Petersen.

The expectations and strength of the project were defined by partners as: mental health interventions being based on evidence; Interventions being community-based, based on existing resources and cost effective; interventions creating a platform that can be used by local governments; and interventions being used to shape national mental health policies.

DIGNITY met Ivan Darío González, the new Vice minister of Health to discuss the project and its objectives. DIGNITY also met with the President of Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), Patricia Linares, to understand the current structure and function of the JEP. Another meeting with the minister of Justice, Gloria Borrero, took place to discuss prison health and potential further projects in this area. Lastly, DIGNITY also met with Alberto Brunari and Juan Carlos Monge from the UNHCR.

Mission April 2018

Where: Bogotá, Colombia

When: 9-13 April 2018

Who: Universidad Externado de Colombia, Ministerio de Salud y Protección Social (MoH), the Danish Embassy in Colombia, OPS (Organización Panamerica de la Salud, La Agencia Colombiana para la Reincorporación y Normalización and DIGNITY

Main activities, outcomes and conclusions
The current political situation and the upcoming presidential election could influence on the project, but both the Universidad Externado and the Ministry of Health remain dedicated to the cause.

A systematic assessment by the Universidad Externado concluded that departments would be chosen on the following criteria: ppresence of camps for ex-combatants, former members of FARC; affected by post-conflict and now in the process of normalization: figures related to forms of victimization linked to the armed conflict; institutional capacity and sustainability; local projects and developments related to mental health; presence of diverse vulnerable population groups - conflict victims; geographical access and security conditions; and availability of information. Based on this assessment the departments of Cauca, Meta, Bolívar, Tolima and Putumayo were chosen.

Partners agreed the project should focus on conflict-related mental health conditions, namely depression, anxiety and PTSD.

A scientific committee was set up, consisting of Jens Modvig, Mauricio Aponte and Nubia Bautista.