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Colombia: ICRC activities from January to March 2008

12-06-2008 Operational Update

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) remains concerned about the fate of thousands of Colombians displaced by armed conflict. From January to March 2008, it provided assistance for close to 21,800 of them.

The ICRC distributing relief items to displaced people. 
Emergency humanitarian aid for the displaced  

From January to March 2008 the number of displaced persons in Colombia increased by 45% as compared with the previous quarter. Their situation continued to be alarming, especially in the departments of Arauca, Chocó and Nariño, where they faced dire socio-economic conditions.

During this period the ICRC provided assistance for 21,764 people. Some 70% of its assistance was given to people who applied for it on an individual basis.

The remaining 30% was distributed to people involved in 16 cases of mass displacement (groups of more than 50 people who had fled their homes following the same event) in the departments of Antioquia, Arauca, Caldas, Cauca, Chocó, Córboba and Meta.

Given the scale of the problem, the ICRC stands ready to provide further assistance for displaced families as needed and, with a view to preventing further displacement, it will continue to engage in confidential dialogue with all the parties to the armed conflict.

Water and habitat 

In order to improve the lives of civilians, the ICRC supported various projects designed to build or repair infrastructure, such as schools, shelters, community centres and water-supply systems, in conflict-affected parts of Antioquia, Arauca, Caquetá, Cauca, Meta and Norte de Santander departments.

The ICRC also helped refurbish the premises of gove rnment offices for assistance and guidance to displaced persons (Unidad de Atención y Orientación) in Sincelejo, Sucre department.


 Financial aid and referrals for civilians affected by conflict  

The ICRC paid for medical care for 141 displaced persons and 25 residents in conflict-affected areas and referred another 286 people to local medical facilities.

It also covered the cost of treating or rehabilitating 233 victims of anti-personnel mines, explosive remnants of war and other weapons, and women victims of sexual violence.

 Accompanying local health workers  

After obtaining the necessary security guarantees from the parties concerned, the ICRC accompanied government medical teams to conflict zones on five different occasions so that they could provide primary health care.

In the first quarter of 2008:
  • 51.8% of ICRC assistance went to children (persons under 18 years of age), 26.8% to women, 21.4% to men, 8.6% to indigenous people and 7.7% to Afro-Colombians;
  • the ICRC distributed 84,210 food parcels and 17,638 food vouchers to displaced persons;
  • the main causes of displacement were anti-personnel mines, restrictions, direct threats, armed clashes and the death of a relative.

 Physical rehabilitation  


The principle aim of the ICRC’s physical rehabilitation programme is to provide disabled people affected by the armed conflict, who are not covered by government health-care plans, with access to high-quality services. To that end, the ICR C supplies specialized centres with orthotic-prosthetic components, equipment and materials, as well as with technical expertise and training.

In the first quarter of 2008, 21 conflict victims received care in ICRC-supported physical rehabilitation centres.

The ICRC continued to back efforts by the National Apprenticeship Service (SENA) and the Centro Don Bosco to implement training programmes for orthotic-prosthetic technologists and technicians, respectively. It also cooperated with the Ministry for Social Protection in introducing quality-control standards for the manufacture and fitting of artificial limbs.


 Restoring contact between family members  

The ICRC strove to restore contact between detainees and hostages and their families through the exchange of Red Cross messages (brief personal messages to relatives). During the period under review, it delivered 20 Red Cross messages and collected 12.

On 10 January and 27 February the ICRC carried out two humanitarian operations to facilitate the release by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) of Clara Rojas and Consuelo González de Perdomo, and of Gloria Polanco, Luis Eladio Pérez, Eduardo Géchem and Orlando Beltrán, respectively. The ICRC welcomed the cooperation of all the parties involved in the releases, especially that of the Colombian and Venezuelan governments and of the FARC.

Acting in its capacity as a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organization, the ICRC will continue to seek every possible means of bringing about the speedy release of those still being held hostage.

 Visits to persons deprived of their liberty  

ICRC delegates carried out 80 visits to permanent places of detention under the authority of the Colombian prison service (INPEC) and 121 visits to transitional places of detention under the authority of the armed forces, the national police forces, the Administrative Department of Security and the Office of the Attorney General. The purpose of the visits was to assess the conditions of detention of persons deprived of their liberty.


As part of its communication and protection activities, the ICRC held information sessions for a variety of audiences (government authorities, police forces, organized armed groups, civil society and the civilian population) in order to share its concerns about the consequences of armed conflict for civilians and to spread knowledge and understanding of its mandate and operational procedures.

The ICRC carried out two international launches in Bogotá: that of its study on customary international humanitarian law and that of its regional training and integration course on humanitarian law for members of academic circles in Latin America.

The ICRC also held 41 dissemination sessions attended by some 3,000 people, including 2,650 weapon-bearers from the armed and police forces and from other organized armed groups.

Cooperation with the Colombian Red Cross  


In January, in cooperation with the Colombian Red Cross, the ICRC launched an emergency humanitarian-aid project desi gned to provide guidance, protection and assistance for individually displaced persons arriving in the city of Pasto.

Colombian Red Cross volunteers also helped provide emergency aid in 16 cases of mass displacement.


The ICRC and the Colombian Red Cross continued to carry out a joint project designed to raise awareness of the dangers presented by mines among people living in high-risk areas.


The ICRC signed a new agreement with the Department of Health of the Colombian Red Cross to hold first-aid workshops for community health workers and nursing aides deployed in the most severely affected areas. The workshops are designed to improve the capacity of local health teams to provide first aid.

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