The number of internally displaced persons in Colombia increased significantly last year due to the struggle of various armed groups for control of rural areas of the country, the Red Cross said on Wednesday.
While fighting between Colombia’s army and rebel groups has subsided in the past year, fighting between rebel groups continues to take a heavy toll on civilians, the organization added in its annual assessment of humanitarian challenges in the South American country, called “Humanitarian Challenges in Colombia”.
Some communities are increasingly affected by land mines, death threats and attacks on health workers, the humanitarian organization added.
The Red Cross findings came as Colombia’s president-elect, leftist Gustavo Petro, try to negotiate ceasefire agreementsor with rebel groups fighting for control of illegal mines, drug trafficking routes and other resources abandoned by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, after its 2016 peace agreement with the government.
The peace deal ended five decades of conflict that has killed more than 450,000 people, but was also followed by power struggles between smaller groups in remote parts of the country. Those areas include the resource-rich Chocó province and a region that is covered in coca fields near the Venezuelan border.
“The situation is complex, the processes take time,” said Lorenzo Caraffi, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Colombia.
He stressed, however, that the current conflict in Colombia “is not comparable to the one that existed 20 years ago” in the country, when rebel groups regularly attacked police stations in small towns, while explosive attacks and kidnappings affected thousands of people in cities like Bogotá and Medellín.
However, some indicators indicate that violence is increasing.
According to the 2022 Red Cross report, more than 123,000 people had to flee their homes in rural areas last year to escape conflict, an increase of 60% since 2021. An estimated 39,000 people were confined to their villages for days or weeks due to threats from armed groups.
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