© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-1801/Markisz

A government social worker finds adolescent girls on the street late at night in a poor neighbourhood of Medellín. The country’s 40-year long conflict, deep-rooted disparities and high levels of violence continue to negatively affect children.

Critical Issues for Children and Women

Colombia’s 40-year long internal armed conflict, already one of the longest in Latin American history, worsened during 2009, increasing the seriousness of the country’s ongoing humanitarian crisis. Not only have armed attacks and fighting between the army and illegal armed groups multiplied, new armed groups have emerged in different regions, frequently resulting in the maiming and killing of civilians. In addition, in the first nine months of the year, over 350,000 people were displaced or affected by flooding, landslides or violent storms. Children, particularly those from marginalized populations such as the Afro-Colombians and indigenous peoples, are among those most severely impacted by these ongoing crises. Increasingly, they are victims of internal displacement and accidents involving unexploded ordnance, and are subject to recruitment by illegal armed groups for use in conflict or other forms of exploitation, such as gender-based violence.

Planned Humanitarian Action for 2010

In 2010, UNICEF will respond to the humanitarian needs of 280,000 children and women affected by the internal conflict and natural disasters; this response will require the participation of nine United Nations agencies, international NGOs, the European Humanitarian Community Office, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of the Red Cross.  UNICEF currently leads the Thematic Group on Basic Services on a rotation basis, together with the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization, and is responsible for leading the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene and Education Sub-Groups. Following are the expected results of UNICEF emergency interventions:

Health and Nutrition: In coordination with the World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization, UNICEF will ensure access for 35,000 vulnerable children and women affected by natural disasters, forced confinement or displacement to basic health and nutrition care through the use of the Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses strategy, and in partnership with World Food Programme, access to nutritional supplementation for 15,000 indigenous children in the Pacific Region who have been displaced or are isolated from health services due to the armed violence.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH): UNICEF will ensure access to sufficient safe water and appropriate sanitation and hygiene facilities, meeting Sphere standards, for over 20,000 people affected by climate-related disasters, forced confinement or displacement through the repair of wells and water and sanitation systems in schools, health clinics and communities.

Education: Access to education in a safe learning environment will improve for a total of 10,000 children affected by disasters, forced confinement or displacement in over 40 provisional schoolrooms equipped with school kits and textbooks, rehabilitated WASH facilities and to protect pupils from waterborne disease.

Child Protection: Over 200,000 children affected by disasters and/or by the armed conflict and at high risk of unexploded ordnance accidents or recruitment into armed groups will be given psychosocial support, life-skills education, vocational training and reintegration services through the establishment of child-friendly spaces and community-based protection networks. The UNICEF-led Child Protection Sub-Cluster will also establish a recognized system of signs to indicate schools as protected humanitarian spaces to prevent their use by legal or illegal armed groups.

HIV/AIDS: UNICEF and partners will strengthen young peoples’ ability to reduce their exposure to HIV infection in conflict or disaster-affected areas and displaced settlements through provision of information about HIV transmission and prevention.

Summary of UNICEF Emergency Needs to fulfil
Core Commitments for Children for 2010
Sector US$
Health and Nutrition 1,000,000
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) 800,000
Education 900,000
Child Protection 3,100,000
HIV/AIDS 200,000
Total 6,000,000