Colombia: civilians deliberately targeted in fight to control land, UN official says

12 June 2003

In Colombia, civilians are not only caught in crossfire, they are also directly targeted as part of a strategy to control land and routes, a senior United Nations relief official said today at the end of his three-day mission to that country.

"In Choco, the mostly Afro-Colombia and indigenous communities are regularly subjected to economic blockades, murders, kidnappings, forced disappearances and displacement," Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Kenzo Oshima said of the region along Colombia's Pacific coast, where he had discussions with internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Speaking to reporters in Bogotá, Mr. Oshima urged all parties to Colombia's decades-long conflict to immediately cease attacks against civilians and ensure that they have access to humanitarian aid, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Mr. Oshima was in Colombia to assess the UN response to the conflict that has forced an estimated 2 million persons to flee their homes, one of the highest such totals in the world.

OCHA said the UN has put in place a plan, which requires $80 million, to reduce poverty among the conflict-affected population. The donor community has so far provided $27 million.


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