GENEVA, 25 April 2006 – In Colombia, children and adolescents are still severely affected by the ongoing armed conflict, despite the recent decrease in the intensity of armed actions in the country since the 2001-2002 peak of hostilities. UNICEF said today it does not have adequate resources to respond. For programs operating this year, UNICEF has a shortfall of US $ 1.7 million, out of a total amount of US $4.8 million necessary for humanitarian action.
The number of people internally displaced by the violence in the country is estimated to be between 2.5 and 3.5 million. Around half of them are children and adolescents. This tragedy has continued in recent years, with over 150,000 newly displaced people per year in 2004 and 2005. Children in rural communities around the country also suffer the effects of blockages and limited humanitarian access. In close coordination with all the UN agencies operating in the country, UNICEF is assisting the affected communities by supporting psychosocial recovery, as well as health and education services.
Around 7,000 children in Colombia remain enrolled in non-State armed groups and recruitment of children and adolescents continues, despite the increase in the number of people demobilized. UNICEF is supporting national efforts to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers and to provide alternatives to enrolment through the strengthening of formal education and vocational training. Reintegration of children formerly linked to irregular armed groups is developed together with the national programme for children and armed conflict, which is lead by the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare. It includes actions such as safely returning them to their families and communities as well as providing shelter, healthcare, education and legal protection.
From 1990 to April 2006, 1,739 civilians in Colombia have been victims of landmines and unexploded ordinances (UXO); 506 of them were under 18 years of age. The number of landmine victims has increased substantially in recent years: almost 80 per cent of these 1,739 civilians have been reported from 2001 up until now. Landmines and UXOs are present in 31 out of 32 provinces in Colombia and are increasingly found not only in combat zones, but also in school yards, local water sources and rural access roads. As the UN’s lead agency for coordinating action against mines, UNICEF works with the government and more than 14 civil organizations in Colombia to raise awareness about the dangers of landmines and ordnances, to work towards prevention of accidents and to support victims within the national anti-mine plan.
UNICEF is asking donors to include Colombia as one of the priority countries in the world in need of funds as means to protecting children from the devastating effects of this armed conflict. Due to its long duration, since the 1960s, the armed conflict and its negative impact on children is at risk of being forgotten. The funding needs in Colombia for 2006 is US$ 1.7 million, which will be devoted to effective support of action against mines (1.1 million) and displacement (600,000), in a well defined plan of action agreed upon with partner UN agencies that operate in Colombia as well as their main national counterparts.
**** About UNICEF For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
For further information, please contact: Damien Personnaz , UNICEF Geneva (+41) 022 909 5716, firstname.lastname@example.org