Colombia: lack of basic services

18-04-2012 Feature

Communities in remote areas of the country struggle with economic and social hardship in their day-to-day lives. The lack of infrastructure and resources hinders their access to education, health care, water and other basic services. Extrait du rapport des activités du CICR en Colombie en 2011.


© ICRC / C. von Toggenburg

Living conditions are precarious for communities in remote areas of the country, affected by fighting or the presence of armed actors. There is often no infrastructure, equipment or staff to provide basic services such as education, health care, water and sanitation. The communities struggle with economic and social hardship far from public view, because access to these areas is difficult and State presence is limited.
If communities are lucky enough to have a health post, it is often in poor condition and lacks equipment, supplies and personnel. In their schools, there are classrooms without doors, roofs or school materials. Very often they do not even have a permanent teacher. This makes it difficult for children to attend school, which increases their vulnerability to armed actors and other problems, such as the improvised explosive devices and explosive remnants of war left in many areas.

These remote areas of Colombia, where the ICRC is present, often do not have drinking water supply systems. The aqueducts that do exist are often made by hand, and the poor quality of the water is detrimental to the health of the population. In most cases, however, people are left to their own devices and obtain water from rivers and other unsafe sources or collect rainwater in unhygienic conditions. They consume the water without treating it in any way, which can lead to health problems.

Basic infrastructure is often seriously affected by the hostilities and direct attacks on civilian objects. Displaced communities also often face problems in the place that they move to, including poor
sanitary conditions and lack of access to basic services, such as water and decent housing.

The ICRC’s humanitarian response

The ICRC seeks to alleviate the difficult conditions facing these people and improve their quality of life by implementing projects to develop basic infrastructure.

In 2011, the ICRC supported the construction and renovation of community infrastructure, including wharfs, health posts and community centres, directly benefitting over 1,160 users.

It contributed to the construction and renovation of school boarding houses, classrooms, canteens and sanitary facilities, which benefitted over 1,980 children in 14 schools in 10 of the country’s municipalities.

The ICRC also facilitated the access of people living in isolated areas to safe drinking water and basic sanitation with the distribution of supplies and equipment, including water tanks, filters and piping. It implemented strategies for a healthy environment, which help communities to identify hygiene and sanitation deficiencies and problems, with a view to designing solutions with the support of the ICRC. This programme assisted over 6,000 people.

In the specific cases of the departments of Cauca and Norte de Santander, where the homes of civilians and community infrastructure were affected by constant clashes and armed action, the ICRC distributed materials for the emergency rehabilitation of damaged buildings, benefitting over 1,600 people.

Water, basic sanitation and emergency shelter projects were carried out to support displaced communities, benefitting over 2,600 people, mainly in Nariño, Cauca, Valle and Córdoba.



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