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Colombia: Displaced in need of greater assistance

22-04-2005 News Release 05/29

Over the years, millions of people have been displaced by the armed conflict in Colombia. While their situation is a matter of serious humanitarian concern, it has been difficult for the government and humanitarian organizations to provide them with adequate assistance owing to a lack of information about their social and economic circumstances.

With a view to remedying the situation, the ICRC and the World Food Programme (WFP) have recently carried out a joint assessment of food and other basic needs among the displaced in six of the country's departments.

While the findings do not cover the country's entire displaced population, they reflect certain general tendencies. Lack of a steady income; inadequate housing, health services and education; and poor hygiene and sanitation all exacerbate food and economic insecurity. According to the ICRC/WFP report, issued today in Bogotá, displaced families living in urban environments, who face the greatest risks and difficulties in adapting to their new circumstances, are especially vulnerable.

The data collected shows that displaced families spend 58% of their scant resources on food, most of the rest on housing and public services (water, electricity and gas) and only 6% and 3%, respectively, on health and education.

The Colombian government must ensure that displaced people receive humanitarian aid both during and after an emergency. Humanitarian organizations like the ICRC, in addition to supplying emergency relief, can help set up programmes designed to bring about sustainable solutions, providing the government implements clear and appropriate policies in support of the displaced.

The ICRC has been giving emergency humanitarian assistance to persons displaced in connection with the conflict in Colombia since 1997. This assistance covered some 65,000 people in 2004 and over 11,000 in the first quarter of 2005.

A summary of the ICRC/WFP report , Identifying Food and Non-Food Needs of the Internally Displaced , dated March 2005, is available on the ICRC website.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Carlos Ríos, ICRC Bogotá, tel.: ++ 57 1 3 13 86 30 or ++ 57 311 491 07 75  

 Christophe Kleber, ICRC Bogotá, tel.: ++ 57 1 3 13 86 30 or ++ 57 311 491 07 89  

 Annick Bouvier, ICRC Geneva, tel.: ++ 41 22 730 24 58 or ++ 41 79 217 32 24