Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection

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What are the needs?

Civilians in Colombia continue to be affected by the humanitarian consequences of a decades-long internal armed conflict: forced recruitment, sexual violence, murder, kidnapping, restriction of movement, lack of access to goods and services and forced displacement. Colombia has the world's largest population of internally displaced people (IDPs) in the world: 5.2 million according to the government and 5.5 million according to local NGOs and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). Some additional 150 000 people are internally displaced each year. The conflict 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.

Victims of the conflict are in dire need for assistance. 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.

How are we helping?

Since 1994 and up to 2014, the EU has provided more than €200 million in humanitarian aid in Colombia.

Helping people affected by conflict

The main beneficiaries of European humanitarian aid are IDPs, rural victims of the conflict, and refugees. Special attention is given to vulnerable groups, particularly women, children, indigenous and Afro-Colombians. Projects run by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) have focused on providing food aid, seeds, healthcare, water, sanitation, and protection. In line with humanitarian principles, ECHO aid goes to the areas most affected by the conflict, where there is limited government's presence. Support includes raising awareness about Colombia as a forgotten crisis and the need to respect International Humanitarian Law. In 2013, €13.5 million were granted to assist the victims of the conflict.

Colombian children (IDPs and refugees) are among the beneficiaries of 'EU children of Peace' projects, towards which the EU decided to channel the funds awarded by the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. These projects focus on education in emergencies.

Addressing disasters

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. The 2013-2014 action plan provides €1.1 million of funding for three projects in Colombia.

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