Handicap International promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities in Colombian society, in particular the victims of armed conflict or anti-personnel landmines. It has also been awarded official accreditation as a civil humanitarian demining organisation and recently launched its first demining and risk education actions, and continues to provide victim assistance.
© Bas Bogaerts / Handicap International
Landmines are omnipresent in conflict zones in Colombia, a country ravaged by armed violence. Thousands of people fall victim to this scourge and the vast majority of survivors suffer from a disability. Handicap International is working in ten Colombian departments to provide assistance to victims. It provides medical and psychological care-management and improves their self-reliance. Handicap International is also planning to contribute to mine clearance efforts in the country and is providing communities with risk education on mines and explosive remnants of war.
In Colombia, the care management system for people with disabilities is weak. The needs however, are immense. Handicap International is therefore working to improve the quality and accessibility of rehabilitation services. The organisation is also improving the skills of rehabilitation staff and supporting policy makers so that they are more attentive to the need for stronger rehabilitation services.
The organisation also provides support for Disabled People's Organisations so that they can be part of the decision-making processes relating to the inclusion of the most vulnerable people in society and improve recognition of their rights. Handicap International also works to improve access to employment for people with disabilities, by creating vocational training spaces.
Colombia has the second highest number of victims of anti-personnel landmines in the world - more than 11,100 in 25 years. According to Handicap International, 80% of the survivors of armed violence suffer from a disability.
Colombia is strongly impacted by armed violence as a result of a conflict that has already lasted for over 50 years. 31 of its 32 departments are contaminated by mines, making Colombia the second most mined country in the world after Afghanistan. Since 1990, the use of improvised explosive devices has become systematic.
Nearly half of casualties are civilians who live in the remotest and the most deprived areas in terms of health structures and rehabilitation care. And 26% of them are children, who are particularly vulnerable. These accidents have serious consequences for casualties, including death, injury, long-term disabilities and psychological trauma.
Although the country is also ravaged by drug trafficking and delinquency, and violence associated with gold mining, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary armed forces of Colombia (FARC) signed an historic peace agreement on 26th September 2016. Handicap International, accredited in July 2016 as one of the country’s four official humanitarian demining actors, is preparing to launch a five-year demining operation in six of the most contaminated departments: Antioquia, Cauca, Caquetá, Córdoba, Nariño and Meta.