Colombia: The anguish of a displaced woman
19-12-2002 News Release
" On 29 November, my daughter and I set off to visit my sister in El Vergel. On the way, we were surprised to see that the streets were empty and the doors to all the houses shut. Suddenly, shots rang out in the distance. A moment later, we caught sight of some men in camouflage and we turned down a side street to avoid them.
When we got to my sister's place, she was not there. We had just sat down to wait for her when five of the men appeared. They ordered us to leave the village by dawn and told us that they had come to clean things up...
At that point, I decided to go to a friend's house. I found my sister there, along with many other people who had received the same order. There was a couple there, weeping and moaning, whose son had just been executed before their very eyes. Three years ago, I had lost my husband in the war.
After a sleepless night, we decided to head for Granada. We did not know what fate held in store for us but, given the circumstances, we could not go back home. "
This is one of the many accounts told to ICRC delegates helping displaced people from the countryside around San Luis, in eastern Antioquia department, where a new spate of violence broke out in November, claiming 17 lives and forcing about 1,000 people to flee their homes, some under threat.
Civilians are helpless victims in the territorial dispute between the parties in conflict. They have no choice but to go along with those who take control of their villages – at the risk of being considered collaborators – or to flee and face an uncertain future.
In late November, the ICRC delivered emergency food aid and other basic necessities to 191 displaced families in the main city of Sa n Luis and on 10 December to 35 other displaced families in Medellín, the capital of the department. Between January and September 2002, the organization had already assisted some 150,000 people who were either displaced or living in conflict zones throughout Colombia, a larger number than during the entire previous year.
Displaced people often wind up settling in destitute neighbourhoods on the outskirts of cities. This is why, following the emergency phase, they must receive support from the Colombian authorities and humanitarian organizations, especially in the areas of education, housing and health care.
Further information: Annick Bouvier, ICRC Geneva, ++4122 730 2458