Colombia Violence Displacing Thousands

Catholic Relief Services Unveils Aid Plan for Victims

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BALTIMORE, Maryland, May 12, 2002 ( Catholic Relief Services committed an initial $20,000 to victims of violence in Colombia, including those affected by the May 2 mortar attack at the church of Bojaya that killed 119.

The funds will assist the CRS local partner in providing food, medicine, bedding, basic hygiene items, and trauma counseling for more than 2,900 people who have been displaced by the heavy fighting between paramilitaries and the leftist guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

CRS is also working with the Diocese of Quibdo to develop a comprehensive emergency response plan.

CRS and its partners estimate that up to 20,000 people may be displaced by continued violence between the paramilitaries and guerrillas and by an aerial bombing campaign initiated by the Colombian armed forces in an effort to regain control of the area in the northwest.

On April 21, paramilitary forces moved into the region that had been occupied by the FARC guerillas. The guerrillas responded by cutting off contact between Quibdo and surrounding communities, thereby restricting access to food, fuel and medicine for more than 45,000 community residents.

Despite warnings from the Diocese of Quibdo and other organizations, the government did not act to prevent the clash between the guerillas and the paramilitary forces until May 7, five days after the deadly attack, the largest recorded single massacre of civilians in the nearly four-decade civil war in Colombia.

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