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Strife in Colombia Increasing Homelessness, says Red Cross


The International Committee of the Red Cross says Colombia's internal strife is causing a dramatic increase in the number of homeless people in the country. Red Cross officials say tens of thousands of homeless people in Colombia are almost totally dependent on outside assistance.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says fighting between rebel and paramilitary groups in Colombia has steadily intensified since the beginning of the year. It says human rights violations against civilians are increasing, because neither the rebels nor the paramilitary groups make any distinction between the civilians and the people they are fighting.

The head of Red Cross operations in Latin American, Yves Giovannoni, says more people in rural areas are fleeing their homes and heading for the urban areas, where between one and two million displaced people are destitute.

"The biggest humanitarian problem in Colombia are these people, long-term IDPs [internally displaced people] with no prospect of going back," said Mr. Giovannoni. "And this is an issue that ought to be addressed as soon as possible because, as I just described to you, it is increasing, it is increasing. I mean it is getting [to be] a humanitarian time bomb."

Mr. Giovannoni says the influx of tens of thousands more displaced people into crowded cities will increase the pressure on local services and the need for emergency assistance.

The Red Cross expects that by the end of the year it will need resources to assist almost 200,000 displaced people, thousands more than the organization originally expected to have to help.

Because of the increase, Mr. Giovannoni says the Red Cross has had to scale up its appeal for Colombia to almost $22 million, about $4 million more than originally asked.

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