Head of Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Colombia speaks about disappearance.
Arauca affected by conflict and natural disasters.
ELN increases actions
No. of people affected by access and mobility constraints. Oct 2015 (OCHA) 12,507
No. of people affected by natural disasters. Oct. 2015 (UNGRD) 7,551
US$106,860,705 2015 humanitarian funding being implemented as of 20 Nov. 2015 (OCHA 4W)
Colombia, a country of absences
Christoph Harnisch, Head of Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Colombia Early this year, Darío*, a 29-year-old farming day worker in Meta department, left for work and never returned. After a week with no news, Dario’s mother, Mrs. Ana María*, reported his disappearance. November marks 300 days of Dario’s absence, but she still has no idea what happened to her son.
Throughout Colombia, more than 70,000 people are reported missing, but not only due to armed conflict and violence. Each disappearance raises questions that should be asked: are they alive or dead? Why did they disappear? Where in the country are they? How to find them?
The humanitarian consequences of disappearance are countless: destroyed families, psychological trauma, stigmatization, and impoverishment. For these reasons, we have made this issue our priority in Colombia: in the past four years, we’ve supported 560 families in their search for their loved ones and provided 320 families with psychosocial support.
On 18 October, the Government of Colombia and the FARC-EP announced from Havana a major advance within the framework of the peace negotiations: the commitment to search for, with ICRC support, all those disappeared due to the armed conflict. We applaud this effort and the political will it represents for both sides to give relief, in a humanitarian fashion, to the suffering of thousands of families awaiting news of their loved ones. Nonetheless, it opens a chapter to an immense job, which requires a firm will and coordinated efforts.
This is a task that we will carry out in an impartial and neutral manner, prioritizing, as always, the response to families of disappeared people. In an initial phase, we will receive and organize the information coming from the Government and FARC-EP, as well as victims’ organizations, in coordination with the official forensic institute Instituto de Medicina Legal y Ciencias Forenses. In addition, we will continue to provide support to family members who are part of the search process, and we will hand over remains in a dignified manner, with economic and psychosocial support.
We recognize the advance in the accords in Havana, but we are also aware that in no aspect will this task be easy. It is a task that will take many years, not only due to the sheer magnitude of disappearance in Colombia, but also due to the exhaustive processing and forensic techniques that are required to identify remains. Our experience in other countries has taught us that we need these efforts to be maintained over time and that society shows solidarity with families. Only in this way our hope will become an answer for those who are still awaiting their loved ones.
*Names changed to protect the identity of the victims.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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