Thousands of people are forcibly displaced and hundreds killed every month in Colombia, a senior United Nations humanitarian official today said, calling for more support for people affected by five decades of armed conflict and natural disasters in the country.
“It is vital for the people living with this situation that every opportunity is taken to protect and assist them and to promote peace,” said Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Kyung-wha Kang in Bogota, wrapping up her four-day mission to Colombia.
She noted that since peace discussions began in November 2012 between the Government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), every month an estimated 14,000 people have been forcibly displaced and hundreds have been killed or injured by anti-personnel mines and other improvised explosive devices.
“I hope that peace efforts by the Colombian people and their leaders can lead to the end of the conflict and pave the way for a lasting peace and reconciliation, with the participation of all sectors of society,” said Ms. Kang, adding that the eventual signing of a peace accord will not mean the end of violence for all Colombians.
Drug cultivation and trafficking have helped to fuel the conflict in Colombia, which is one of the world’s largest producers of coca, along with Bolivia and Peru. Cultivation fell by a quarter in 2012, according to figures presented last August by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Government, but cultivation often resumes in new or previously cleared fields.
The country is also vulnerable to natural disasters, such as flooding in 2010 which impacted 1.5 million people, and disasters related to environmental degradation, which are particularly harsh on communities affected by the armed conflict, where there are high poverty rates and limited access to basic services.
Among these, the Nasa indigenous communities in the town of Toribío in the north-eastern Cauca region, with whom Ms. Kang met during the visit.
“The people I met told me they want peace so they can live their lives without fear,” she stated.
She noted that there are gaps in aid, especially in the areas that are difficult to access and where local government capacity is limited.
“The international humanitarian community is here to provide protection, to strengthen capacity and to assist in filling critical gaps,” stressed Ms. Kang. “National and international humanitarian support for those in need will remain a priority.”