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Thursday, 5 September, 2002, 03:50 GMT 04:50 UK
Colombia's civilians displaced by conflict
A Colombian child displaced by FARC rebel attacks prepares to return to his village
More than 200,000 people fled this year alone

A Colombian non-governmental organisation has organised a forum in the capital Bogota, to highlight the problem of displacement as the 38-year civil conflict reaches its bloodiest heights yet.

Colombians displaced by FARC rebel fighting prepare to return to their village
Many displaced leave home with little more than the clothes on their backs
In the first half of this year alone, more than 200,000 people were driven from their homes by the fighting.

The Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (or Codhes) aims to focus attention on those driven from their homes as Marxist rebel guerrillas - including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC - right-wing paramilitaries and the armed forces fight for territorial control.

War zone

The figures on those civilians involved are staggering.

Alvaro Uribe
Uribe is building up Colombia's security forces

Last year more than 300,000 people were displaced by the fighting.

In the first half of this year alone the number is more than 200,000.

And as the displaced leave their homes, most of them peasants, they take with them little more than the clothes on their back.

Their only asset is their land and that is worthless, as nobody will invest in the middle of a war zone.

So they drift into the cities, swelling the slums where there is nothing to welcome them but unemployment, urban crime and more violence.

Battered nation

The state does not have the resources to provide a safety net for these people.

And the new government of hardliner Alvaro Uribe is squeezing the exchequer for every peso possible to fund the build-up of armed forces to take the offensive against the warring factions.

The only thing Codhes is sure of is that as the 38-year conflict enters its bloodiest chapter to date, 2002 will be the worst year on record for displacement in this battered nation.


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