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Colombia: emergency aid in Yondo-Antioquia area

16-01-1997 News Release 97/02

ICRC delegates based in Bucaramanga, in the department of Santander in central Colombia, went to the municipality of Yondó (department of Antioquia) on 10 January to take emergency aid to victims of the internal violence in Puerto Nuevo, a village on the banks of the River Ité. They were accompanied by representatives of the Colombian Red Cross.

Fifteen of the village's 20 houses had been burnt down by armed men. One person died in the incident and another is reported missing.

It was nightfall before the ICRC and Colombian Red Cross team reached Puerto Nuevo, known to its inhabitants as Cooperativa , after a ten-hour drive along almost impassable tracks. The 70 or so villagers - two-thirds of them children - fled into the woods when they saw the approaching vehicles, and emerged only when they recognized the red cross emblem. The team gave them food, kitchen utensils, hygiene items, blankets and mattresses. For the time being they are sheltering in the few houses left standing. The ICRC is closely monitoring developments in the situation so as to afford them protection.

There are reported to be 300 displaced persons in the Yondó-Antioquia area. " The Puerto Nuevo incident is serious " , said Christophe Kleber, head of the ICRC's subdelegation in Bucaramanga. " It could well signal an escalation in the conflict. "

According to human rights organizations in Colombia, the consequences of the internal conflict are disastrous for the civilian population. They estimate that every year 73,000  people are driven from their homes, 2,600 are killed and more than 500 others are taken captive.

The ICRC delegation in Bogotá is concerned about the increasingly severe effects of the internal violence in humanitarian terms.

The ICRC has been working in Colombia since 1980. It currently has a delegation in Bogotá, subdelegations in Cali, Medellín, Apartadó, Bucaramanga, Barranquilla and Villavicencio, and offices in Saravena, Florencia and Pasto, with a fourth due to open shortly in Cúcuta. The organization operates with a staff of 42 delegates and 90 local personnel in the country.