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Colombia: ICRC president committed to providing humanitarian aid as long as needed

14-02-2013 News Release 13/25

Geneva/Bogota (ICRC) – Peter Maurer, president of the ICRC, today concluded a four-day visit to Colombia, the site of the ICRC's largest humanitarian operation in the Americas.

Mr Maurer had meetings with the Colombian president and vice-president, with the ministers of foreign affairs, defence and justice, and with the high commissioner for peace, among others. He also visited remote areas of the Putumayo region to see the impact that armed violence continues to have on local people.

"I was concerned to see that, away from wealthy cities, there is another Colombia where people are cut off from such basic necessities as clean water, health care and education," said Mr Maurer. "They also lack economic opportunity. I was deeply moved by the stories of displaced families who have been suffering from years of violence in this secluded part of the country."

"On the other hand, I found the volunteers I met from the local Red Cross branch to be highly committed men and women," he said. "Some are dedicating their entire lives to bringing hope and relief to remote rural communities and other underserved areas."

After speaking to local communities along the Piñuña Negro river in Putumayo, Mr Maurer declared: "I realise that the local population is often trapped between the army and different armed groups. In addition, improvised explosive devices and explosive remnants of war represent a constant threat for the civilian population: I heard of several incidents in which men, women and children were killed or severely wounded. Relatives outside the village live in fear. They have little or no access to schools, health centres or local markets. Their situation is desperate."

Mr Maurer commended the strong working relationship the ICRC enjoys with the Colombian government and with all other parties to the conflict. "I am extremely pleased that it is entirely possible to carry out humanitarian work in this country. Our organization is able to reach people in need and fulfil its neutral and impartial humanitarian role."

The ICRC will continue adapting its action to remain close to the new challenges and realities faced in Colombia. The organisation also stands ready to support local efforts and to contribute to improve the implementation of existing legislation aimed at providing, in a better and more inclusive way, relief to all victims of conflict and armed violence.

For further information, please contact:
María Cristina Rivera, ICRC Bogota, tel: +57 311 491 0775
Patricia Rey, ICRC Bogota, tel: +57 311 491 0789
Alexis Heeb, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 218 76 10
Carla Haddad Mardini, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 217 32 26