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Colombia: Medical assistance for civilians in conflict zones

27-09-2002 News Release 02/39

Last week an ICRC team travelled to the Department of Norte de Santander for the third time to provide medical assistance for people living in rural areas and unable to reach State health facilities owing to the armed conflict.

The ICRC, together with a local health team, assisted 673 people: 425 patients received medical consultations, 95 others were given basic dental care, 150 children under five were vaccinated and three seriously ill children were evacuated to a hospital in Convención. The ICRC also carried out educational and preventive health-care activities.

On its two previous visits, the ICRC had accompanied a medical team from a regional hospital – after receiving the necessary security guarantees from the armed groups present in the area – and thus enabled the team to dispense primary health care under the protection of the Red Cross emblem.

During the past year, the ICRC has carried out similar activities in the departments of Cauca, Córdoba, Sucre and Cesar, where civilians have also been unable to get to medical facilities. In those departments, the organization has given 1,372 medical consultations, provided dental care for 211 patients and given 4,444 vaccinations to 2,395 people.

In its capacity as a neutral intermediary, the ICRC maintains contacts with all the parties to the conflict with a view to promoting compliance with international humanitarian law. In particular, ICRC delegates remind arms bearers of their obligation to respect civilians, protect them from the effects of the hostilities and guarantee access to health services by according medical personnel the full respect they are due.