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Colombia: Conflict taking increasingly heavy toll

16-10-1997 News Release 97/41

The approaching municipal elections in Colombia and the numerous clashes that have broken out between the parties to the conflict are causing a serious deterioration in security conditions for the civilian population.

On 3 October the ICRC delegation in the country was asked to give assistance to the survivors of an attack in the department of Meta that targeted a judicial commission comprising some 40 members. Eleven people were killed and 16 wounded in the incident.

The ICRC and the Colombian Red Cross have distributed food and other basic necessities to 50 recently displaced families. During the past two weeks more than 300 families have been forced to leave the Chocó region. Similar situations are reported in the departments of Nariño, Norte de Santander, Arauca, Antioquia, Bolívar and Putumayo, and also in Magdalena department where 200 families have fled the Plato and Fundación area. In Llanos del Yarí (Caquetá), emergency assistance has been distributed to over 400 persons, and in Urubá more than 16,000 people displaced by the conflict are still living in extremely precarious conditions. ICRC delegates are currently conducting a survey of the situation in Urubá in order to assess needs in the various camps for the displaced and to determine whether it might be possible for the people concerned to return to their homes. Over 900 families have received emergency aid in recent weeks.

At present the ICRC has 44 expatriate delegates and about 100 local staff working in Colombia. By the end of June delegates had visited 3,732 detainees in 84 detention centres.