Armed conflict in Colombia: A pain that doesn't go away

A reduction in the humanitarian consequences of armed conflict and violence would have been a positive start to 2021. Sadly, the opposite was true.
Report 17 March 2021 Colombia

There are at least five ongoing non-international armed conflicts that continue to affect the daily lives of Colombia's civilians and their ability to live in dignity.

The ICRC considers the parties to these conflicts to be the Republic of Colombia, the National Liberation Army (ELN), the Popular Liberation Army (EPL), the Gaitanistas Self-Defence Forces (AGC), and the structures of the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People's Army (FARC-EP) that did not join the 2016 Final Agreement and operate under a centralized command (Fronts 1, 7 and 40 – Coordinating Command of the West).

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened fear among communities affected by violence, not only because they fear the virus itself and have witnessed its impact on thousands of families but, with the passing months, they have found themselves without protection amid worsening armed violence.

We recognize and admire the resilience of people living in places affected by armed conflict and violence. They refuse to give up and they work towards a brighter future despite their circumstances.

read more: Colombia, plunged into isolation by pandemic and conflict


Do we want to return to normalcy?

Lorenzo Caraffi

  Lorenzo Caraffi
  Head of the ICRC delegation in Colombia

This is now my third time working in Colombia for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and, as I take up my new role as head of delegation, it strikes me that Colombians are still incredibly resilient– something I first observed back in the 2000s.

I would like to start by saying that I have every confidence in the ability of our humanitarian teams to respond to the needs of people affected by armed conflict and violence. I would also like to express my support for all Colombians, especially those who have been affected by COVID-19, and the country's health-care workers.

 READ: Head of delegation - editorial

Overview of the humanitarian situation

Against the backdrop of the pandemic, the humanitarian consequences of armed conflict worsened, as did violence against civilians in some parts of Colombia.

We are particularly concerned about the increase in the number of murder victims – people who are protected by international humanitarian law (IHL) and other humanitarian rules – as well as the increase in violence used by weapon bearers to maintain social control over territories.

READ: Overview of the humanitarian situation

ICRC calls to action for Colombia in 2021

Colombia lives a difficult reality in which thousands of people are suffering because of the armed conflict and violence. 

These are our calls to action in relation to the issues that most concern us in the country.


Health services deal with a pandemic and violence in Colombia

The year 2020 was particularly difficult for health-care workers. Not only did they have to deal with a public health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but also with the escalation of violence against them.

Attacks against healthcare workers in Colombia


We have 120,000 reasons to keep searching: the missing persons

In 2020, we registered one missing person every three days in Colombia. From the time that the peace agreement was signed until 31 December 2020, we recorded 571 new cases of people who went missing because of armed conflict and violence.

Although this is an alarming statistic, it does not accurately reflect the scope of the tragedy; the true picture is in all likelihood much worse.


Explosive hazards: A silent threat

In 2020, we reported 389 victims of explosive hazards, the highest number in the last four years.

Most victims are civilians living in rural areas who happen upon these hazards as they go about their daily business in search of water or walking along roads. The accidents took place in 69 municipalities across 17 departments.


Prisons, migration and use of force

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the challenges in many areas, such as health management inside the country's prisons and the humanitarian consequences of migration.

Likewise, it showed that the correct use of force requires more work in situations that do not reach the threshold of armed conflict.

READ MORE about Prisons, migration and use of force


Facts and figures

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