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Colombia - Humanitarian assistance in the Atrato Medio region

23-05-2002 News Release 02/21

Following recent armed clashes, the ICRC and the Colombian Red Cross distributed food aid on 20 May to some 400 displaced and local families in the nearby villages of Napipí and Pogue.

Following recent armed clashes between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP) and the United Self-defence Groups of Colombia (AUC) in the urban centre of Bojayá (Chocó), which claimed at least 118 civilian lives, the ICRC and the Colombian Red Cross distributed food aid on 20 May to some 400 displaced and local families in the nearby villages of Napipí and Pogue. These people had not yet received assistance from the Social Security Network (RSS), a government body responsible for emergency relief.

The embargo imposed for weeks by the armed groups has led to a scarcity of food and medicines throughout the Atrato Medio region. On the basis of a survey carried out by ICRC delegates last week, covering the area from Riosucio to Murindó, the ICRC and the National Society, in coordination with the RSS, plan to distribute further relief this week to some 9,000 residents of the municipalities of Murindó and Carmen del Darién.

The ICRC has also supplied medicines for health posts in Buchadó, San Antonio de Padua, La Loma, Vigía del Fuerte and Napipí. The ICRC mobile medical team on the spot – which has provided primary health care for communities affected by the armed conflict in Atrato since 1996 – left Turbo on 20 May to bring medical care to the residents of Domingodó, Carmen del Darién, Napipí and Vigía del Fuerte.

In addition, a Red Cross message service has been set up in order to relieve the anxiety of people seeking news of their relatives in Atrato Medio.

As soon as the events in Bojayá were known, the ICRC, in its capacity as a neutral intermed iary, approached the FARC-EP and the AUC with a view to ensuring that the wounded could be evacuated and that local residents and families displaced by the fighting could receive humanitarian assistance and basic necessities.