Working with the Displaced in Colombia
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 of displaced persons and general victims in the regions most conflict-afflicted, including minority groups.
IRD, through two programs funded by the US State Department, is easing the suffering of families affected by the conflict. The Closing Emergency Gaps to Aid Displaced People program designed to meet the immediate basic needs of IDPs. Its aim is to strengthen the GoC response to the crisis, strengthen the capacity of IDP associations, prevent/alleviate mental, emotional, and physical distress due to gender based violence, and to strengthen local government capacity to provide care and support to victims. In these areas, IRD assists IDPs during the critical period while they await declaration of their displaced status to be approved by provided social services. We provide training on health, gender-based violence, and nutrition. Our psychologists interview IDPs and offer assistance on a variety of social issues, while IRD’s nutritionists track progress on the nutrition and health of displaced children. In 2010 and 2011, IRD assisted more than 2,500 displaced and vulnerable families. IRD recently was awarded Closing Gaps IV which, starting in October 2011, will expand the critical services that IRD offers to Buenaventura and Caucasia.
In the second program, IRD supports the 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, near the border with Ecuador. During the three-year program, IRD mitigates the grief and psychological trauma among surviving family members, improves access to legally entitled reparations and government social assistance programs, strengthens community-level democratic structures, and promote reconciliation at the community level. This program will also assist victims’ families while simultaneously developing the capacity of affected communities to do so on an ongoing basis. The program accomplishes this through forming and training indigenous victims associations. It gives 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 internally displaced persons associations in the area.
Under subcontracting agreements, IRD has also constructed 11.7 km of tertiary road in Tumaco, Nariño. It has also managed a small program called “Casas Pintadas.” This activity encourages cooperation between communities and local enforcement authorities through the means of painting exterior upgrades to local residences.