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Colombia: ICRC activities from July to September 2008

29-01-2009 Operational Update

Overview of the ICRC's activities in Colombia: protecting people deprived of their liberty, restoring family links, reducing the risks associated with weapon contamination, assisting the displaced, working on water and habitat projects, providing medical support, and promoting international humanitarian law.

 Extracts from the delegation bulletin  



 People deprived of their liberty in connection with the conflict  

ICRC delegates carried out 41 visits to permanent places of detention managed by INPEC, the Colombian prison service, and 69 visits to temporary places run by the army, the national police, the department of security, and the office of the public prosecutor. The purpose of these visits is to assess the detention conditions of people deprived of their liberty.

 Third Latin American Seminar on Prison Health  

The ICRC works with the Colombian prison service to improve the prison health system and runs promotion and prevention programmes in detention facilities.

As part of these activities, the ICRC and the Colombian prison service organized the Third Latin American Seminar on Prison Health, which was held in the city of Paipa, Boyacá department, between 29 September and 2 October 2008.

Participants included representatives from the health authorities of 10 Latin American countries and Spain, and from various national supervisory bodies.

 Restoring family links  

Through the exchange of Red Cross messages, which contain personal news, the ICRC endeavours to re store contact between hostages and detainees and their relatives. Between July and September, the ICRC delivered 12 messages and collected 26.

Weapon contamination 

 ICRC prevention work in difficult-to-access contaminated areas  

The ICRC focuses on activities that reduce risk, for example, repairing or building infrastructure, in cooperation with the local authorities and the community. The ICRC engages in confidential dialogue with the parties to the conflict to raise awareness of the effects on the civilian population of using and abandoning these weapons, to ensure that communities have access to tap stands, schools and agricultural land. It works to promote safe behaviour among the civilian population and emphasizes the importance of knowing which areas and paths are safe.

It also disseminates information among communities and authorities on how victims can access assistance, providing in particular essential information on first-aid and evacuation, and on victims'right to access State help.

Supported by the Colombian Red Cross, it carries out first-aid training in the community. In order to improve the support that victims and their companions receive, it has been noted that the procedures for accessing assistance need to be disseminated among key groups such as the civilian authorities and the State health service, which are responsible for arranging assistance for civilians affected by weapon contamination.

Emergency humanitarian aid for the displaced 

Between July and September, 18,071 people (4,573 families) received aid. Of these, 15,001 people (3,873 families) had been individually displaced. They received aid in one of the 11 cities where there are ICRC offices, or in one of the six branches of the Colombian Red Cross with whom the ICRC has signed cooperation agreements (Bucaramanga, Pereira, Sincelejo, Villavicencio, Valledupar and Pasto).

The remaining 3,070 people (700 families) were involved in nine cases of mass displacement (groups of more than 50 people) and were assisted by the ICRC in the departments of Arauca, Cauca, Chocó and Nariño.

Water and habitat 

The ICRC supports a number of minor construction and repair projects aimed at improving living conditions for the civilian population in areas affected by the conflict.

  • Over 240 children from different settlements in Bolívar, Caquetá and Cauca benefited from work on school infrastructure. Classrooms and toilet facilities were built, water tanks fitted, and desks and chairs supplied.

  • In Puerto Guamo, Bolívar department, an aquaduct was built that will benefit around 200 people.

  • In Tame, Arauca department, a storeroom was built and repairs were carried out at the Hogar Juvenil Campesino training workshop. Two carpentry machines were added. Sixty young people a year will receive training.

  • En Hericha, Caquetá department, a health post was built which will improve the health of local residents.

Between July and September 20 08:

  • 162 displaced people and 92 people living in areas affected by the armed conflict received economic support enabling them to access health services;

  • 525 people were directed to State health services;

  • 90 victims of landmines, explosive remnants of war and other weapons and 19 female victims of sexual violence received economic support enabling them to seek medical attention and rehabilitation.

 Supporting the local health system  

The ICRC seeks security guarantees from all parties to a conflict so that the State authorities can enter areas affected by the conflict and provide health care. As part of its programme of accompanying health workers, there were:

  • 167 medical consultations;

  • 226 dental consultations;

  • 105 promotion and prevention activities.

In addition, 97 people were vaccinated.

 Mobile health units  

When armed conflict prevents people accessing State health services, the ICRC dispatches health teams to provide communities with primary health care. Between July and September, the ICRC carried out:

  • 1,117 medical consultations;

  • 154 dental consultations;

  • 2 promotion and prevention activities.

In addition, 197 people were vaccinated.

Promoting international humanitarian law 

The ICRC holds information meetings with the authorities, members of the Colombian security forces, organized armed groups, civil society and the civilian population during which it explains its concerns regarding the humanitarian c onsequences of the armed conflict for the civilian population and endeavours to raise awareness of its mission and working methods.

From July to September, courses were run for journalists in Cali, Bucaramanga, Montería and Villavicencio, in which over 170 journalists from the regional and national media participated.

In addition, 91 dissemination sessions were held, attended by 7,635 people, including 6,970 weapon bearers from the Colombian security forces and organized armed groups.

Three dissemination sessions were also held to raise awareness of the rules of international humanitarian law that protect medical services. Around 340 members of the Colombian security forces attended.

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