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Colombia: ICRC activities from January to July 2007

28-08-2007 Operational Update

An overview of the ICRC's humanitarian activities in Colombia during the first half of 2007.

The ICRC began working in Colombia in 1969, when it was granted authorization to visit people detained in connection with the armed conflict. In addition to detention, the ICRC has provided food and non-food assistance to internally displaced populations, promoted the integration of international humanitarian law into Colombian legislation and into the training of the armed and security forces, facilitated the release of hostages and detainees, and implemented agricultural, water and sanitation projects for resident communities affected by the armed conflict.

 Assisting displaced people and residents affected by the conflict  

During the first half of 2007, armed clashes in Nariño, Valle del Cauca, Antioquia and Arauca led to a surge in the number of people fleeing their homes. The ICRC and the Colombian Red Cross, as well as the government and international NGOs, provided essential household items and food for thousands of people uprooted by fighting.

In Bogotá and Medellín, an ICRC voucher programme helped displaced families to become more self-sufficient. The United Nations World Food Programme and the ICRC also completed a survey of the socio-economic situation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in eight cities around the country. The data collected should make it possible to tailor future assistance more accurately to the needs of the displaced as well as helping the authorities to respond better to their plight.

Villagers living in conflict-affected areas received medical assistance from public health staff supported by the ICRC and the Canadian Red Cross. In areas where access to c onflict victims is difficult because of the prevailing insecurity, ICRC delegates accompanied medical teams and obtained the necessary guarantees.

  • More than 31,000 IDPs received food and nearly 10,000 others benefited from a food voucher programme. All were provided with essential household items.

  • Over 1400 patients were seen by medical staff, more than 1200 doses of vaccine were administered and 57 health education sessions were organized.

  • Over 1,700 people benefited from community infrastructure projects, including the construction and rehabilitation of schools, health centres, water supply systems and agricultural facilities.

    

 Mine-risk education and support for mine victims  

A survey conducted in three Colombian departments in collaboration with the Norwegian Red Cross concluded that one out of four people living in mine-infested areas was insufficiently informed about the location of mines and other explosive remnants of war and the danger they represent.

The number of mine victims supported by the ICRC was up from 2006.

  • 186 victims of mines or explosive remnants of war were given support to obtain treatment

  • 22 new patients were provided with artificial limbs, braces or splints.

    

 Detainees  

The ICRC handed over to the Ministry of Justice reports concerning the material conditions of detention and the treatment of detainees gathered during a dozen visits to places of detention. It also handed over a summary report, covering the last four month s of 2006, concerning treatment of detainees during capture and in transitory detention facilities under the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence. Detainees in 22 prisons were informed about HIV/AIDS prevention through the distribution of educational material.

Efforts to obtain access to people held by armed groups remained unsuccessful. However, the ICRC worked closely with organized armed groups to facilitate the handover of 15 civilians and 2 police officers to their families or to the authorities.

  • The ICRC visited over 2,200 detainees during more than 400 visits to 264 places of detention.

  • With the support of the ICRC, nearly 1500 family members were able to visit detainees

 Protection  

ICRC delegates continued to document cases of alleged violations of IHL. The bulk of the cases concerned disappearances and summary executions. The ICRC recorded more allegations of sexual violence perpetrated by arms carriers as compared to the same period last year.

An ICRC forensic expert advised government entities working to elucidate the fate of people reported missing in connection with the conflict. In collaboration with the Colombian foundation, Dos Mundos, the ICRC organized four workshops to help family members and forensic workers cope with the psychological trauma associated with exhumations.

  • Over 238 representations were made to arms carriers regarding IHL violations.

  • Some 1,430 people directly threatened by armed groups were given material assistance and provided with transportation to reach safer areas, while 189 families of victims of summary executions received economic support.

  • 17 cases of forced recruitment of minors were documented. Five children associated with armed groups were handed over to the ICRC and received psychological counselling from the Colom bian Institute of Family Welfare (ICBF).

  • ICRC offices registered tracing requests for 269 people. Sixty-six people were located and efforts to find 401 people were still under way.

 Promoting International Humanitarian Law  

The delegation met on several occasions with government officials to promote the ratification of the CCW's Protocol V on Explosive Remanants of War, as well as the Second Protocol to the Hague Convention on Cultural Property.

Having completed the integration of IHL into their doctrine, training and operating procedures, the armed forces continued to receive technical advice on the implementation of IHL from the ICRC on the ground. With support from the Colombian Red Cross and the ICRC, police commanders and instructors completed a teaching guide on integrating IHL principles into core instruction and operational training procedures, to be used widely by police special forces participating in armed hostilities.

ICRC delegates maintained a constant dialogue with non-state armed groups in which they placed particular emphasis on the consequences of the conflict in humanitarian terms, basic humanitarian principles and the mandate of the ICRC.

  • some 11,580 members of the armed forces and 1,530 members of the national police and its special forces attended dissemination sessions on the ICRC's mandate and activities and the basic principles of IHL

 Strengthening the operational capacities of the Colombian Red Cross  

After participating in capacity-building programmes for a number of years , the Colombian Red Cross has become a significant operational partner, working with the ICRC to assist displaced people in five cities, running HIV/AIDS capacity-building programmes for local health authorities, conducting mine risk education activities and assisting mine victims.