Colombia: assistance for civilians affected by fighting in Chocó

13-03-2012 News Release 12/53

Bogotá / Quibdó (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) distributed food on 13 March to some 350 people who had fled two districts of Vigía del Fuerte municipality, in Chocó department (near the border with Antioquia department).

This humanitarian aid also benefited the communities hosting them.

On 4 March, the inhabitants of Bocas de Luisa and Vegaez had been driven from their homes by armed hostilities. They sought refuge in neighbouring areas where communities took them in and shared their food supplies with them. The violence and the "armed stoppage" imposed on the delivery of supplies led to food shortages affecting both the displaced people and the host communities. The ICRC is the only organization that has been able to enter the area.

"People have only fled a short distance but they are being prevented from returning to their lands, harvesting their crops and sending their children to school," said Jean-François Campagna, head of the ICRC office in Quibdó. "They are also afraid to move around in the area because of the unexploded munitions left behind following the fighting."

Mr Campagna added that the ICRC had noticed signs of anxiety and psychological trauma among both the displaced people and the host communities. In addition, it has observed cases of children suffering from skin conditions and diarrhoea.

Through ongoing confidential dialogue, the ICRC will pursue its efforts to ensure that all parties to the armed conflict show due respect to civilians and their property, in accordance with international humanitarian law.

For further information, please contact:
Érika Tovar, ICRC Cali, tel: +57 313 433 66 07
María Cristina Rivera, ICRC Bogotá, tel: +57 311 491 07 75