Civilians in Colombia continue to be affected by the humanitarian consequences of a decades-long internal armed conflict: forced recruitment, sexual violence, murder, disappearances, restriction of movement, lack of access to goods and services and forced displacement. This aspect in particular is exacerbated by the on-going conflict – Colombia has the second largest population of internally displaced people in the world: 4.8 million according to the government and 5.5 million according to local NGOs. It has also forced civilians to flee to neighbouring countries – mainly Ecuador and Venezuela. According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, almost 396.000 Colombians are in need of international protection in those two countries alone.
The needs for the victims of the conflict are enormous. The conflict’s dynamics often hampers access to basic services such as healthcare, education, safe water, especially in remote zones. People forced to leave their home for their own survival are in need of temporary housing and basic household items (hygiene kits, kitchen utensils), as well as psychological support and legal protection.
Since 1994, ECHO has provided more than €187 million in humanitarian aid in Colombia.
Helping people affected by conflict
The beneficiaries of European humanitarian aid have been displaced people, rural victims of the conflict and refugees. Special attention is given to vulnerable groups, particularly women, children, indigenous and Afro-Colombians. ECHO projects have focused on providing food aid, seeds, health care, water, sanitation, and protection. ECHO aid goes to the areas most affected by the conflict, where there is limited government's presence. For 2013, €13 million have been granted to assist the victims of the conflict, same amount as in 2012. Also, Colombian children (IDPs and refugees) are among the beneficiaries of the Nobel Peace Prize children in conflict projects, towards which the European Union decided to channel the funds awarded by the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.
Helping people affected by natural hazards such as floods or earthquakes is also at the core of ECHO’s mandate. Relief efforts focus on the provision of food, health care, water, sanitation and hygiene services, and non-food items such as jerry cans, water filters, mattresses and mosquito nets. Since 1994, €11 million have been allocated to Colombia for a response to disasters triggered by natural hazards. ECHO also funds projects to strengthen the response capacity of communities and local authorities to face natural hazards. Reducing vulnerability can be done by improving infrastructure, drafting emergency plans, installing early warning systems, implementing information and education campaigns. These simple measures have proven very effective in saving lives and limiting the damage when a disaster strikes. In 2011-2012, ECHO's Disaster Preparedness programme (DIPECHO) invested €1.9 million in projects in Colombia.