Colombia: Humanitarian Challenges 2023
In several parts of the country, people are enduring indescribable suffering that is exacerbated when armed actors fail to uphold IHL rules and humanitarian principles.
In 2022, our field teams recorded 400 suspected breaches of IHL – some of them serious – and other humanitarian norms, of which more than half were homicides; threats; sexual violence; indiscriminate use of explosive weapons; recruitment, use and participation of young children and teenagers in hostilities; arbitrary detention; and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
The importance of humanitarian action
Head of Delegation, Colombia
No matter where I am in the world, I am often asked how it is possible to remain neutral when confronted with the suffering of people affected by armed conflict.
It isn't easy. Every humanitarian worker can tell you a story of the dilemmas they face – again, pretty often – when they have to take decisions that will affect people's lives. Finding the sweet spot between the potential benefits and the potential risks is hard.
The constant threat of explosive hazards
Explosive hazards continue to have serious effects on the population, such as confinement, displacement, psychological issues and anxiety. Although these issues leave fewer visible scars than others, they are just as serious, since they can turn people's lives upside down.
To not know whether a loved one is dead or alive, what has happened to them or where they are was the painful reality for hundreds of Colombian families last year. People continue to go missing in relation to the armed conflicts and violence in the country, leaving scars that will take a long time to heal.
Health in the midst of conflict
Attacks on health workers were particularly serious last year in the areas hardest hit by the armed conflicts and add to the many hardships generated already by the violence endured by the civilian population in those areas.
Overcrowding in temporary detention centres getting worse
The state of the Colombian prison system continued to put the fundamental rights of people deprived of their liberty at risk.
Releases: A reflection of our role as neutral intermediary
In 2022, we handled the release of 63 people who had been in the hands of various armed actors. This is one of the highest figures in recent years. Irrespective of the number of times we take part in these strictly humanitarian operations, every time someone is reunited with their loved ones it is deeply gratifying for us.
Colombia: Stories from the field
Find in this section some of the stories we documented during 2022 in Colombia. Each testimony is part of a specific action we develop with the communities, in the four sub-delegations we have a presence.
Calls to action from ICRC to Colombia in 2023
The reality of Colombians living in the midst of armed conflicts and violence continues to be complex. For this reason, through these recommendations, we want to send a message to state authorities, armed actors, and civil society.