© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-1773/Markisz

Carlitos, 8, stands in front of his home, which sits on a toxic landfill in a poor Medellín neighbourhood. Decades of armed conflict, drug-related violence and recent intense flooding have displaced millions and deepened social inequalities.

Children and women in crisis

The great humanitarian burden in Colombia is centred on violence related to a conflict that has disrupted the lives of Colombians for four decades and continuously violates international humanitarian and human rights law. The existence of illegal armed groups, the near-constant threat of violence related to conflict and illegal drug trafficking, massacres, landmine accidents, extortion, and forced recruitment put women and children at grave risk. During the past decade, on average hundreds of thousands of Colombians each year have been forced to abandon their homes – 289,000 in 2009 alone1 – placing Colombia second only to the Sudan in its number of internally displaced people.

Against this backdrop of political turmoil, Colombians have also been exposed to natural hazards. During the last three months of 2010, the weather phenomenon La Niña caused flooding and landslides affecting close to 1.3 million people in 599 municipalities located in 28 of the country’s 32 departments.2 The heavy rains have already diminished access to safe drinking water, health care and education, and are expected to continue through March 2011. Taken together, these emergency conditions have increasingly eroded the rights of children, particularly those in rural communities and those who are already excluded from opportunity because of race, gender or geographical location. Reaching these children and their families is one of the key challenges to providing humanitarian assistance in Colombia.

Meeting urgent needs and building resilience in 2011

UNICEF will work with the Government of Colombia, other UN agencies and NGOs to address the needs of 444,000 people, including 9,000 women, 208,000 boys and 223,000 girls. As lead agency supporting the national round tables on WASH, education and nutrition in emergencies, UNICEF expects to achieve a number of key results.

Humanitarian funding at work: Highlights from 2010

In 2010, an estimated US$6 million was needed for UNICEF’s humanitarian activities in Colombia. As of October 2010, only 8 per cent of the funding goal had been received. However, funds from other sources have allowed UNICEF to improve the prospects of women and children in the following ways: 43,000 children and adolescents benefited from an integrated response in health, nutrition, water, protection, sanitation and education; 500 pregnant and lactating women and 6,500 children under age 5 were provided with nutrition care and education; 3,900 rural children under 5 and families affected by armed conflict were provided with food, protection and support for early child development. The paucity of funds meant that some humanitarian activities planned for 2010 in preventing and treating HIV and AIDS could not be undertaken.

Funding requirements for 2011

UNICEF is requesting US$10.3 million for its 2011 humanitarian work in Colombia, an increase of almost US$4 million compared with 2010. These funds are needed to expand aid to the most vulnerable communities and address increased emergency situations caused by natural disasters during the last months of 2010 and the escalating effects of ongoing armed conflict.

More information on 2010 achievements and details of the humanitarian actions planned for Colombia in 2011 can be found at www.unicef.org/hac2011 and at the country web site at www.unicef.org.co (in Spanish).

1 Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre and Norwegian Refugee Council, ‘Internal Displacement: Global overview of trends and developments in 2009’, IDMC and NRC, Geneva, May 2010, p. 51.
2 United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “Colombia. Temporada de lluvias 2010, Fenómeno de La Niña” [The rainy season: The La Niña phenomenon], Bulletin, no. 9, OCHA, New York, 24 November 2010, p. 1.

UNICEF Emergency Needs for 2011 (in US dollars) Total $10,300,000