Marlon Langeland and David Garcia, NRC's Advocacy and communication manager in Colombia, on their way to the small village that experienced an armed attack in 2017.
Jhoana, 20 years old, and her family had to flee after an armed attack in her village. Two of her brothers and her two cousins where killed. All male youth.
Jhoana grew up in a small village along the river in the region of Chocó, Colombia. She loved playing with her siblings and cousins, walking in the bush and went swimming. Her dream was to study veterinarian because her passion for animals. Her dream got tossed when the community repetitively was threatened and they eventually had to flee.
It was an ordinary day in March 2017 when Jhoana and other women were celebrating women’s day. The remaining village, mostly males, continued their normal activities when all of a sudden an armed group attacked. That night Jhoana couldn’t sleep due to nightmares and not knowing the extent of the attack and not being able to go back to the village before the next day.
The next day they witnessed several dead and wounded youths and she was devastated. Not one, but two of her elderly brothers had lost their lives. One where tied up and the other one was laying dead on a rooftop with rain poring down on the body. Furthermore, two cousins and a family friend, all young, and all males also lost their life’s.
Today, the village is abandon and appears more like a ghost town. Jhoana and her family are now too afraid to return to their village because of the uncertainty that follows and if another armed attack will happen again.
Now, her daily activities are restricted to short trips; when she leaves the house, she does not go far and she coordinates her trips with relatives. A common daily activity can consist of meeting her cousins at the pier and watch them swim. Or, she will only hang out in their house. At home, where she spends most of her time, she writes her diary to cope with the armed attack and the loss of her two older brothers. She also does her homework in secondary school, or, she helps her mom with cooking and takes care of her 12-year-old niece, Yurani, that lost her dad in the armed attack. She now feels that she has to support her family because her parents are old and the two oldest brothers are gone.
She continuously strives to stay positive and cope with the armed attack. “With the heart broken I have to be brave. Forget bad things and bring positive things. Even with this pain, I want to get ahead. I have to fight for positive things to happen”.
Hopes for the future
The only way she can fulfil her dream and help her family is to leave the village and continue studying, but there is no money to study for. “I now have a 12-year old niece and I would like to be a good example for her. My nieces father was killed in the armed attack and her mother died due to illness prior. Thus, if I go on to study and build my life I will then get a good job and she will hopefully acquire strength to achieve the same”.
Jhoana is hoping for peace in Colombia, but she is not sure if that will happen. She has realized that there is no future in the village she is displaced and the road is unfortunately short for youth to armed groups and drugs. Thus, she believes the path lies in education and underline the importance to reach a common agreement in peace in order to progress the country.
Message to youth
“If you want something you can achieve it, therefore you should proceed it”. “Even if someone hurts you, you have to be strong and get ahead”. She continues, “while you are alive you have to be brave, even if you smile outside and cry inside we should proceed with our dreams”.
“Don’t believe in negative things, don’t fall into bad vicious, be ambitious in a positive matter, and fight for the future and don’t be defeated”.
Photo: Beate Simarud/NRC
NRC in Colombia
- NRC has been present in Colombia since 1991.
- NRC currently counts on 19 field offices in order to provide assistance to internally displaced and Colombians seeking international protection in the neighbouring countries.
- About 100.000 people benefited in 2017 from NRC´s programs (information, counselling and legal assistance (ICLA), education, regional refugee program and the roving capacity unit). Budget forecast 2017: 97.6 million NOK
- Strategic priority for 2018 continues to be to address displacement and emergency related protection gaps and humanitarian need when the state is unable or unwilling to fulfil its obligations. The peace accord will increase the likelihood that durable solutions can be sought with more vigour. NRC will in this context increase efforts to contribute to durable solutions, both in Colombia and in neighbouring countries.
• Humanitarian and protection challenges continue in Colombia. A six decade-long armed conflict has given Colombia the most prolonged and serious humanitarian crisis in the Americas. In total, more than 7.4 million people are forcibly displaced in Colombia by the conflict.
• Since the signing of a peace agreement between FARC-EP and the government in November 2016, about 200,000 people have been displaced (nov 2016 – august 2018) – the equivalent of one person every 5 minutes. Rights defenders, indigenous and Afro- Colombian leaders, and other community activists face threats, killings and violence. Perpetrators are rarely held accountable.
• There are more than 191,622 Colombians refugees and in need of international protection in neighbouring Ecuador, Panamá and Venezuela, according to UNCHR.
• Forced displacement increased in 2018. During the first semester group displacement increased 112 % in comparison with the previous year (2017).
• During 2018, there was an increase (31 %) in the number of attacks against the civilian population, compared with 2017. Threats continue to be the primary mean of attack against the civilian population, although there was a growth in the number of homicides and intentional injuries targeting persons who were under state protection schemes.
• 9 in 10 people displaced by Colombia's civil war have not yet received compensation promised for crimes committed against them. Over 8,7 million Colombians are registered with the Government’s National Unit for Victims. However, only one out three applications for compensation by the 2011 Victim’s Law in Colombia has been approved. Despite GOC efforts allocating important resources ensure the implementation of the law, the efforts needs to be increased.
• During 2018, 77 % of the people recorded in massive displacement events belongs to farmers, 11 % indigenous and 11 % afro Colombian communities.
• The peace agreement between FARC-EP and the Colombian government is a positive development, but the dynamics of armed conflict and other forms of violence are in flux. Other irregular armed groups have increased their actions in the shadow of the ceasefire, and the clash with these groups is causing the majority of new humanitarian needs.
• NRC recorded 22 events that affected the continuity of thousands of children attending classes during the first trimester of 2018. 7 IHL serious violations against schools have been reported in the first semester of 2018 and forced recruitment into armed groups appear to increase this year.
• Of the total resources requested (156.5 Millions) by the Country Humanitarian Team, only 22 % has been financed (OCHA July 2018)