Colombia has served as an international leader in the challenge of bringing democracy, economic growth, and social stability to its people, while fighting the scourge of drug production and export, and terrorism in its midst. Colombia has suffered under the burden of armed conflict for several decades. It has produced significant numbers victims in the regions most afflicted by conflict, including displacement and gender based violence.
The Closing Gaps to Aid Victims of Displacement program, financed by the Department of State-Bureau of Population, Refugee and Migration, is design to focus on four specific areas:
- Strengthening the capacity of the national government, local governments and ombudsmen in the care of victims of forced displacement.
- Support the immediate attention to meet the basic needs of victims of forced displacement.
- Support the strengthening of the capacity of organizations of displaced people.
- Support the mitigation of emotional suffering caused by violence in the context of armed conflict, including gender-based violence
The program assists IDPs during the critical period between their declaration of displacement and being given status of victim that entitles them to receive the social services dictated by “Law 1448-Victims’ Law”.
Over the life of the program (2009-2013) IRD has worked in 6 regions (Antioquia, Cauca, Caquetá, Córdoba, Nariño and Valle del Cauca) where more than 18,265 displaced and vulnerable families (71,697 persons) have been assisted in gaining access to services of health, education, food, and social protection; ensured vaccination to more than 7,784 children under 5 years of age; secured registration in school for 12,145 children, pregnant and lactating women, and malnourished children are referred to additional services. IRD has worked with over 120 IDP organizations in learning the rights of their members under the newly approved “Law 1448-Victims Law”, and in being active advocates for the membership. IRD has provided technical assistance to 21 municipalities in the design and implementation of their Action Plans for attention and reparation to conflict victims and in the preparation of Contingency Plans for Emergencies, this with the participation Victims’ Representatives. And, finally, are working with the National Government Victims’ Unit in the development of their psycho-social assistance and reparation program for victims, called ENTRELAZANDO (INTERLACING). This program seeks to provide victims of the conflict psychological assistance with group activities that help repair the damaged social fabric. IRD is also providing training to community members (101 trainees to-date) in providing individual psychosocial “first-aid” support to conflict members.
Under a separate contract, financed by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, IRD worked in easing the suffering of families of persons killed or missing as a result of the civil conflict, specifically in the historically marginalized, conflict-affected Afro-Colombian communities on Colombia’s Pacific coast of Tumaco, near the border with Ecuador. During the three-year program, which ended in January 2012, IRD helped mitigate the grief and psychological trauma among surviving family members, improved access to legally entitled reparations and government social assistance programs, strengthened community-level democratic structures, and promoted reconciliation at the community level. This program also assisted victims’ families while simultaneously developing the capacity of affected communities to do so on an ongoing basis. The program accomplished this through forming and training indigenous victims associations. It gave particular attention to strengthening the role and capacities of the local elected Community Councils responsible for management of communal Afro-Colombian lands and the Table of Displaced People (Mesa de Desplazados), which coordinates the activities of IDP associations in the area.
IRD’s Colombia programs have been funded by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM) and Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI).
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