UNICEF seeks more funds to help children caught in Colombia’s civil conflict

20 April 2006

Facing a serious funding shortfall for its activities in Colombia, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has appealed for more than $4 million to protect former child soldiers and prevent additional recruitment in the country’s decades-old civil war, provide life-saving aid to displaced people and increase de-mining.

Facing a serious funding shortfall for its activities in Colombia, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has appealed for more than $4 million to protect former child soldiers and prevent additional recruitment in the country’s decades-old civil war, provide life-saving aid to displaced people and increase de-mining.

Estimates indicate that some 3.5 million people, more than half of them children, have been uprooted by four decades of fighting between the Government, left-wing rebels and right-wing paramilitaries, UNICEF said in its latest donor update.

Some 7,000 children remain enrolled in non-state armed groups, recruitment of minors continues and the presence of landmines in 31 of the Andean country’s 32 provinces is claiming an increasing number of victims.

“Landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXOs) represent a grave and growing problem in Colombia,” UNICEF said. “Over recent years, local production and use of antipersonnel mines by illegal armed groups has increased, placing children and women at highest risk.

“Landmines are found not only in combat zones, but with growing frequency are found in school yards, local water sources, and rural access roads,” it added.

Other UN agencies have also recently expressed concern over the impact of the fighting.

Earlier this month the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warned that a humanitarian emergency is looming among Colombia’s indigenous communities, with some threatened with extinction, as irregular armed groups encroach upon their land, even torturing and killing their leaders.

At the same time, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) bureau in Colombia rights has condemned attacks on civilians by the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – Popular Army as war crimes within the jurisdiction of International Criminal Court (ICC).

In another development, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today it had given an emergency cash grant of $100,000 to the Colombian Red Cross to help it cope with increased flooding, which since January has affected more than 57,000 people and claimed more than 80 lives.

 

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