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Colombia: Concern growing over thousands of displaced people

17-01-2008 News Release 08/07

Bogotá (ICRC) – For dozens of families in Colombia's Arauca province, the year has begun with them being driven from their homes. Over 430 families (some 2,000 people) have fled the countryside for the towns of Saravena, Arauquita, Fortul and Tame, after receiving threats from armed groups.

Forty-four of these families are members of the Guahibos-Managua community, from the La Esperanza indigenous reserve.

The situation is critical, with large numbers of people, including of women and children, living in cramped conditions in schools and the homes of family and friends. This has caused health problems, particularly among young children. As a result, some families have chosen to erect makeshift shacks in local shanty towns.

At home the displaced families raised livestock and grew banana and papaya crops for their living. Many have debts, which is a major concern since there is little possibility of returning home in the near future and they have no idea how they can repay the loans.

As soon as they were informed of this new case of displacement, delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) travelled to the area to assess the displaced families'most urgent needs and begin providing emergency aid.

On 15 January, the ICRC distributed 9.2 tonnes of emergency provisions to 92 families (around 500 people) in Saravena. This included food parcels, kitchen utensils, hygiene items, sheets, mattresses, towels, blankets and nappies.

Today, 17 January, the ICRC is planning to distribute relief to 42 families (210 people) in Arauquita and Pueblo Nuevo.

" What concerns us most is that there is a growing number of displaced families arriving in urban areas, " said Laura Ortega, a delegate working in the area. " The number in Saravena has increased at an alarming rate. "

The ICRC will remain in the vicin ity and closely monitor the situation in order to be able to carry out its mandate to furnish appropriate humanitarian aid for people affected by armed conflict.

For further information, please contact:
  Yves Heller, ICRC Bogotá, tel. +57 1 313 86 30 or +57 1 311 4 91 07 89
  Marçal Izard, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 2458 or +41 79 217 32 24