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Colombia: UN refugee agency pledges aid to partner whose premises burned down

Colombia: UN refugee agency pledges aid to partner whose premises burned down

The United Nations refugee agency today pledged funding and other aid to one of its key partners in Colombia whose premises were burned down over the weekend, apparently in an arson attack.

The Cartagena-based and internationally recognized League of Displaced Women has received frequent threats for its work on behalf of thousands of women and children displaced by violence in Colombia's Caribbean region, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva.

Colombia has the largest population of UNHCR concern, with some 3 million people driven from their homes by more than 40 years of fighting among the Government, leftist rebels and right-wing paramilitaries.

“UNHCR will do everything it can to help the organization overcome this crisis and continue its work with displaced women and their families,” Mr. Redmond said. “As a first step, we are offering more funds for the rebuilding of the centre, whose construction we had helped finance in 2004.”

The blaze destroyed a community centre in the League’s City of Women, located in a poor neighbourhood of Turbaco on the outskirts of Cartagena. The centre was used as a meeting place, community kitchen and for human rights training for the local displaced population. It was soon to begin functioning as a school for 140 children in the area.

“We have been working with the League since 2001 and more than 2,000 people from all ethnic backgrounds have benefited from our joint projects in the areas of women’s and displaced people’s rights as well as income generation and housing,” Mr. Redmond said.

The League’s members, especially its leaders, have received frequent threats and in the past two years, the local Ombudsman Office has repeatedly warned that it was at high risk of targeted violence. In a separate report, the Office warned of a generalized rise in threats and violence against community leaders in the Atlantic region.

“We are very concerned that many of our humanitarian partners and community leaders face an increasingly tense and volatile security situation in the entire Atlantic region,” Mr. Redmond stressed.

The League of Displaced Women was nominated for the Colombian National Peace Prize in 2005.