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Colombia: infrastructure projects to enhance the quality of life of victims of the armed conflict

26-02-2009 Operational Update

In Colombia, many communities affected by the armed conflict are contending with problems caused by the lack of infrastructure or by weapon contamination. In many places, the population struggles to obtain drinking water, basic sanitary services are lacking and access to education, health and the means of subsistence is obstructed. ICRC activities in Colombia, October - December 2008

ICRC brings clean water closer to displaced people. 

“Before the ICRC built the school boarding house, some children had to travel by river every day to go to school and they had to pay a daily fare of 10,000 pesos.* In the end, this became too expensive for their parents and they stopped sending the children, " says a community leader. " Now, with the school boarding house, the children need to travel home only at weekends. " The boarding house takes the pressure off the family budget, reduces school drop-out rates and lessens the children's exposure to the hazards existing in the area as a result of the armed conflict.

Over the last 10 years, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has assisted more than 360,000 people by carrying out 376 building or renovation schemes. As part of its water and habitat programmes, the organization has built or renovated aqueducts, cesspits, sewers, latrines, school classrooms, boarding houses and canteens, health posts, coffee drying sheds, rice and sugar mills, facilities for displaced persons and hostels for victims of accidents caused by landmines and explosive remnants of war. 

This work is made possible thanks to the cooperation and support of local authorities and the community which have to guarantee the sustainability and functioning of the infrastructure once it is finished.

Not only are water and habitat projects an apposite response to the needs of civilians who are affected by the armed conflict, they also help to repair the social fabric through communities'active participation in them.

Between October and December 2008, the ICRC built or refurbished:

  • a school canteen for 45 children in LejanÍas, in the municipality of Tame (Arauca);

  • sanitation to improve hygiene conditions for the 170 pupils of the school in San Pablo, in the municipality of Chaparral (Tolima);

  • the precincts of the school in San Miguel, in the municipality of Planadas (Tolima), which is attended by 110 children;

  • a classroom, library and cloakroom of the school in La Esperanza, in the municipality of San José del Guaviare (Guaviare), which is attended by 22 children;

  • a school boarding house and canteen and a room for the teacher, as well as the sanitation, plumbing and electricity supply for the school in La Mesa, in the municipality of Patia (Cauca), which is attended by 50 children;

  • a multipurpose classroom, a room for the teacher, the sanitation, plumbing and electricity supply for the school in Santa Cruz, in the municipality of Patia (Cauca), which is attended by 170 pupils;

  • a school boarding house, with plumbing and sanitation for the 40 pupils attending the school in Mononguete, in the municipality of Solano (Caquetá);

  • cloakrooms with washbasins and a waste-water disposal system to improve the hygiene conditions of the 90 pupils of the school in El Bosque in the municipality of Samaná (Caldas).

Furthermore, in order to improve services for displaced persons, the ICRC:

  • provided and installed partition walls and carried out general repairs to the care and counselling unit for displaced persons in Barrancabermeja, in collaboration with the local authorities and the Office of the United Nations High Comm issioner for Refugees;

  • refurbished the facilities of the care and counselling unit for displaced persons in Valledupar;

  • renovated and equipped three hostels in Medellín, Cali y Cartagena, with a total capacity of 151 beds, to provide suitable accommodation for the disabled victims of the armed conflict while they are receiving physical rehabilitation treatment in orthopaedic centres;

  • upgraded facilities at the branch office of the Colombian Red Cross (CRC)in Villavicencio, which serves 20 families a day;

  • rehabilitated the CRC's ninety-bed hostel for displaced persons in Bogotá.

 Other ICRC activities  



Between October and December 2008 the ICRC:

  • assisted 14,351 displaced persons;

  • gave economic support and health counselling to more than 500 displaced persons;

  • gave financial support to some 60 victims of landmines, explosive remnants of war and other weapons and to 19 women who were victims of sexual violence;

  • accompanied state medical services in order that they might safely enter areas affected by the armed conflict;

  • with the support of Antioquia University, ran workshops for the health personnel of the hospitals in Ibagué and Tolima;

  • promoted respect for personnel engaged in medical duties among parties to the conflict in seven adv ocacy events designed for health workers.

 Cooperation with the Colombian Red Cross  

In the context of its cooperation with the Colombian Red Cross, the ICRC:

  • participated in joint activities aimed at creating an awareness of, and preventing, weapon contamination;

  • held first-aid training courses;

  • provided support for the care of persons affected by the conflict, especially victims of accidents caused by anti-personnel landmines;

  • collaborated in the counselling of victims of the conflict in order that they can use state health care services;

  • supplied emergency assistance to displaced persons in two municipalities in Nariño;

  • provided logistic support for relief operations to assist persons severely affected by the winter and floods in the department of Santander.


To make it easier to alert the civilian population to the need to prevent accidents caused by landmines and other explosive ordnance, a games kit has been put together for use by instructors and community leaders in outreach activities. This kit has been made up from the prize-winning entries in a competition for volunteers from branches of the Colombian Red Cross.    


During this period, ICRC delegates:

  • received 16 Red Cross messages and delivered 12;

  • made 32 visits to permanent places of detention and 40 to temporary places of detention;

  • participated as experts in the Third Committee Monitoring Prison Policy;

  • ran the course " Doctors working in prison: human rights and ethical dilemmas " which was attended by 49 members of the health profession working in 29 prisons in various parts of the country. The course formed part of the national seminar jointly organized with the National Prison Institute.


During the period covered by this report, the ICRC:

  • ran a journalism course for 28 communicators in Neiva (Huila);

  • held 54 meetings to disseminate international humanitarian law, which were attended by more than 5,000 arms bearers from both the security forces and organized armed groups.

* Approximately four dollars.

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