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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

Colombia: helping older people overcome the challenges of conflict

For almost 60 years, civilians in Colombia have been suffering the consequences of a conflict affecting large portions of the country. Far from receding, violence is increasing as well as its humanitarian impact.

Indigenous, afro-descendants and rural communities endure most of the conflict’s consequences. For example, they are forced to abandon their homes multiple times or live under lockdowns imposed by belligerents fighting for territorial control. They often lack access to basic services such as health care, education, water, and adequate social protection.

In the last year, NGOs and international organisations have suffered direct attacks against their staff and assets. This is why it has become increasingly difficult to reach the most vulnerable communities in Colombia.

Within the complexity of the Colombian scenario, the EU funds a consortium between the Spanish, German and Colombian Red Cross societies. With our support, more than 12,000 people living in conflict-affected communities receive primary health care through medical mobile units, protection services and psychological support.

2 people sitting on a chair outside a medical unit
Older people in remote conflict-affected areas lack basic health services. Many have chronic diseases, mobility limitations, scarce economic resources and low social security coverage. They are about 16% of the people served by the medical mobile units.
© Colombia Red Cross. All rights reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions.
Aid worker handing over medical supplies to a woman
Providing medicines for basic treatments is one of the main tasks of the mobile units. The Red Cross distributes them upon prescription by the medical staff. The stock can cover a 3-month treatment period for patients with prolonged or chronic illnesses.
© Colombia Red Cross. All rights reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions.
Aid worker with an elderly person walking in the street
To avoid long waiting for older people, often in hot and humid weather, they are treated as a priority group. The Colombian Red Cross assesses their challenges in reaching the medical care site and arranges home visits or transportation if needed.
© Colombia Red Cross. All rights reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions.
Person sitting at a table with 2 aid workers listening to her.
Since mid-2021, the Red Cross' presence in isolated communities severely affected by the conflict has facilitated the access to public medical services. The staff is also tasked with vaccinating people against COVID-19.
© Colombia Red Cross. All rights reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions.
2 elderly persons sitting at a table having a doctor's consultation
EU-funded mobile medical units also provide psychological support. Many older persons suffer from loneliness, abandonment, depression and grief. War causes deeper wounds than those that can be seen: supporting people’s healing process can be lifesaving.
© Colombia Red Cross. All rights reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions.
Older people outside the mediacal unit following a workshop on good hygiene practices
Older persons are also involved in other activities such as workshops on good hygiene practices and preventive health measures. Their important role in their community and the general respect they enjoy makes them great ambassadors of such practices.
© Colombia Red Cross. All rights reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions.

Publication date: 12/05/2022