The pandemic exacerbates the five conflicts Colombia is facing, warns the ICRC

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned this Wednesday that the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the five non-international armed conflicts Colombia will face in 2020 and urged the government to stop vaccination in those most severely affected by violence to promote affected areas.

In the presentation of his balance of the last exercise in the Latin American country, entitled “Humanitarian Challenges 2021”, the head of the ICRC delegation in Colombia, Lorenzo Caraffi, stated that there had been “new disappearances, victims of explosive devices”. Attacks on medical missions, threats, murders, sexual violence, recruitment and use of minors and multiple abuse of the population “.

The pandemic has resulted in communities living in conflict-affected areas, including the National Liberation Army (ELN), the People’s Liberation Army (EL), the Gaitanist Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC), as well as dissidents of the disbanded guerrillas of The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) “to become even more afraid than they have already lived”.

The pandemic exacerbates the five conflicts Colombia is facing, warns the ICRC
The pandemic exacerbates the five conflicts Colombia is facing, warns the ICRC

“Not only because of the presence of the virus, but also because of what makes it difficult to be unprotected amid armed conflict that seems to worsen over the months,” the committee stressed.

And the humanitarian consequences of the five armed conflicts recognized by the ICRC increased in 2020. This year 389 victims of explosive devices remained behind. According to the organization’s balance sheet, this is the highest number in the last four exercises.

“The accidents occurred in 69 municipalities in the country, 41 of which had no incidents in 2019, indicating that the phenomenon has spread to areas where the problem was believed to be a thing of the past,” he said.

Likewise, 21,307 people have been displaced and 28,123 people have been incarcerated on their territory by anti-personnel mines, threats and clashes between armed groups.

According to the ICRC, there was one massive displacement on average every 11 days in the Nariño department alone – of more than ten people. Antioquia, Cauca, Norte de Santander or Chocó were other of the most severely affected Colombian departments.

The isolation of the communities has left them available to armed groups and victims of “threats and killings,” as the organization has denounced.

On the other hand, 353 attacks on medical missions were calculated in 2020, the “highest number recorded in the last 24 years”.

Regarding enforced disappearances, the ICRC deplored the record of 571 “related to violence and conflict”. “We document a case every three days,” said the organization, which recalled that the pandemic prevented searches.

Reference was also made to the Arauca, Nariño, Norte de Santander, Cauca, Chocó and Antioquia departments most affected in this regard.

On the other hand, the ICRC has recommended that Colombia introduce a prison policy that promotes the rights and dignity of prisoners and regulates the use of force by the authorities, and called for the implementation of a law on the temporary protection of Venezuelan migrants.

Caraffi has also appealed that “the most vulnerable groups of the population have access to vaccinations” against the coronavirus. “We are talking, for example, of people living in areas affected by armed conflict and violence, people with disabilities, migrants and prisoners,” he added.

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