SPECIAL REGIONAL CONSIDERATIONS - COLOMBIA
GENERAL HEALTH ISSUES OF THE POPULATION 5, 6, 7
Colombia is the only Andean and South American country with ports and long coasts on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Extending over both sides of the equator and the Andes, from sea level to permanently snow-covered peaks of nearly 19,000 feet, Colombia has a wide variety of landscapes, climatic conditions, peoples, and types of settlement and economic activity.
DEMOGRAPHICS, MORTALITY AND MORBIDITY
Colombia's population in 2007 was 43,926,034, of which 72% of the population lived in urban municipalities. It is a multiracial, multicultural country with a tradition of democratic stability and, since 1999, steady economic growth. Colombia is vulnerable to natural disaster such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, landslides and volcanic eruptions. For over 40 years, it has endured a domestic conflict between the Government and armed illegal groups, more recently involving drug traffickers-a situation reflected in high indices of mortality from violence and of displaced populations that hinder the country's economic and social growth.
One of the most serious effects of economic development has been the deterioration of natural resources, especially water, soil, and air. Poor water quality and variations in the water cycle are having a negative effect on health. The pollution of groundwater by domestic and industrial effluents and solid waste of all kinds is threatening not only the supply of water available for human consumption and production but also the nation's flora and fauna. One of the worst pollutants is oil, which has leaked into the soil and water sources as a result of attacks on the country's petroleum infrastructure.
According to the Ministry of Development, barely 5% of Colombia's 1,076 municipalities treat their wastewater before they dispose of it. This situation has turned the Cauca and Magdalena river basins essentially into sewers, as they receive more than 80% of the nation's wastewater. According to the Ministry of Health, 60% of the inhabitants in the municipal seats run a medium to high risk of contracting diseases because of the poor quality of the water. In 2000, 76% of municipalities did not have potable water. Very few urban areas in Colombia have adequate facilities for the disposal of solid waste. In rural areas, this waste is usually dumped in open fields or burned or buried on household property. The use of organic solid waste for productive purposes has not been sufficiently studied, and recycling programs lack continuity.
5 WHO, Cooperation Strategy at a Glance, Colombia, www.who.int/countryfocus/cooperation_strategy/ccsbrief_col_en.pdf
6 Pan American Health Organization, Colombia, www.paho.org/English/DD/AIS/cp_170.htm
7 Pan American Health Organization, Health in the Americas, Volume II, Colombia, www.paho.org/hia/archivosvol2/paisesing/Colombia%20English.pdf