In Colombia, HI’s programme carries out demining, victim assistance and economic inclusion activities. It also provides rehabilitation and mental health support services to Venezuelan refugees living in extreme precarity.
In the humid region of the Inzá mountains, a deminer carries out demining operations in a contaminated area. | © J. M. Vargas / HI
Colombia is much affected by armed violence. Mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) contaminate many areas and present a considerable risk to the population, with thousands of casualties every year. In response, HI’s programme is running demining activities in five of the country's departments, Cauca, Meta, Nariño, Antioquia and Acandi, to enable the communities to return to their land in safety, and organises education sessions on the risks linked to mines and improvised explosive devices
The programme also supports community projects aimed at protecting and promoting livelihoods and developing the local economy. Lastly, it facilitates access to rehabilitation and psychosocial support for the victims of explosive violence.
More than 1.8 million Venezuelan refugees are living in Colombia today. HI works alongside both the host and the refugee communities. The programme provides psychosocial support and specialised rehabilitation care, including orthopaedic devices and technical aids for mobility, such as prostheses, wheelchairs and walking frames. In Bogotá, it runs a project to support homeless refugee children, providing them with a place to stay, health care and access to education. The programme also helps facilitate the economic inclusion of migrants through access to services and financial aid. Finally, our teams organise activities to promote social cohesion between Venezuelan refugees and Colombian populations.
Colombia has the second highest number of victims of anti-personnel mines in the world - more than 12,000 since 1990.
For decades, Colombia has been affected by a protracted conflict between the national government, insurgent groups – the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) - and a number of criminal organisations. In 2016, after more than 50 years of conflict, the Colombian government signed a peace agreement with the country's largest insurgent group, the FARC. However, several other armed groups remain active across the country, seriously undermining the security situation in the most remote areas of the country, and civilians continue to suffer the humanitarian consequences of the ongoing violence.
Colombia is now the second most heavily mined country in the world, just behind Afghanistan. Nearly half of the victims of mines and explosive devices are civilians, and many live in remote areas with no direct access to health centres or rehabilitation care. HI, accredited in July 2016 as one of the country’s four official humanitarian demining actors, has since been conducting mine clearance and mine risk education operations.
More than a third of the world's Venezuelan refugees, representing 1.8 million people, now live in Colombia, sometimes in extreme precarity. This is particularly true of people with disabilities or vulnerable people, such as single mothers. Work is underway to improve the integration of vulnerable populations and make Colombian society more inclusive. However, inequalities remain for people with disabilities, especially in access to employment, particularly in rural areas. A significant proportion of the population does not have access to education, especially among children with disabilities.
Number of HI staff members: 183
Date the programme opened: 1998