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Colombia: Large-scale assistance programme

21-12-2000 News Release 00/49

Tens of thousands of displaced people in the rural areas of Colombia have so little freedom of movement that they no longer know what to do. The conflict has been raging for nearly 50 years, and so far every attempt to find a peaceful solution has met with failure. Because of the security situation, these vulnerable people have no outlet for their produce – anyone who travels to an area under the control of the enemy to sell fruit, vegetables or the wood they have cut may be branded as a collaborator.

The ICRC regularly visits these people, spending many hours on foot, on horseback or in small boats to reach them. Part of the ICRC's assistance programme consists in organizing vaccination campaigns and providing medical care. The displaced are also made aware of hygiene problems so as to reduce the risk of epidemics.

In addition, the ICRC distributes basic food supplies (rice, beans, oil and salt) and the tools and seed the displaced need to grow their own crops. Many of these people are separated from their families and can only keep in touch with them by means of Red Cross messages.

Approximately 50 expatriates and more than 200 local employees are currently striving to assist this population in distress. Besides the delegation in Bogotá, the ICRC has 12sub-delegations and three offices in Colombia.