As armed groups continue to struggle for power, the Red Cross reports a six-year high number of civilians injured by explosives.
A new report from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) shows that violence between armed groups in Colombia continues to displace and maim civilians.
In their annual report on the country’s humanitarian situation, the ICRC found that while violence between the Colombian military and armed groups has eased, more than 180,000 civilians were displaced by 2022 as non-state organizations struggle for control of territory and resources.
“Unfortunately, the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in much of the country continued into 2022,” Lorenzo Caraffi, head of the ICRC delegation to Colombia, told reporters.
In the middle are civilians suffering from the presence of landmines, the threat of violence by armed groups and attacks on health workers.
Wednesday’s report found that about 39,000 people were locked in their villages for days or weeks at a time because of the threat of violence. Medical missions were attacked 426 times and 515 people suffered injuries from landmines and other unexploded ordinances, the highest number in six years.
For nearly six decades, Colombia has faced ongoing internal conflict between government forces, right-wing paramilitary groups linked to the state, drug traffickers, criminal organizations and left-wing rebel groups.
In 2016, a peace treaty brought a brittle end to 52 years of conflict between the government and the country’s main rebel group, known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
But dissidents opposed to the peace deal continued to fight and smaller rebel groups and criminal organizations stepped in to fill the vacuum left by the FARC. Many seek control of lucrative drug trafficking routes and illegal mining operations, with rural and indigenous communities paying a particularly high price as a result of the violence.
Colombia’s truth commission released a final report in 2022 stating that 450,664 people had died as a result of the fighting between 1985 and 2018. Another 121,768 were gone. The report called for government reform, particularly in drug policy, to reduce violence.
In August, Colombia inaugurated its first leftist president, Gustavo Petro, who advocated a goal of “total peace”. Since his inauguration, Petro has been negotiating with armed organizations such as the National Liberation Army (ELN), the country’s largest remaining rebel group, in hopes of reaching a ceasefire.
Petro’s policies differ from those of his conservative predecessors, who embraced a militarized approach to issues such as drug trafficking.
The ICRC welcomed Petro’s efforts and stated in a bulletin that the organization hopes the negotiations will lead to lasting improvements for the civilian population.