Working in Colombia since 1998, Handicap International promotes the full participation in Colombian society of people with disabilities, including victims of internal armed conflict, and their families. The organization also works to ensure that disability issues are taken into account in public policies. Handicap International employs 32 staff members in Colombia and two expatriates.
As a result of a conflict lasting more than 50 years, combined with drug-trafficking and a soaring crime rate caused by the country’s gaping social inequalities, Colombia has a very high level of armed violence. Conflict zones are littered with mines. According to official figures, more than 11,418 people were killed or maimed by anti-personnel mines and explosive remnants of war between 1990 and 2014—the second highest rate in the world. More than 1,000 victims were children. According to a Handicap International survey, 80% of survivors of armed violence have a disability.
Colombia is heavily impacted by armed violence as a result of 50 years of conflict between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and 31 of its 32 departments are contaminated by mines, making Colombia the second most mined country in the world after Afghanistan. Since 1990, the use of improvised explosive devices has become pervasive. Nearly half of casualties are civilians who live in the remotest and the most deprived areas in terms of health and rehabilitation care. 26% of casualties are children, who are particularly vulnerable. These accidents have serious consequences, including death, injury, long-term disabilities and psychological trauma.
Although the country is also ravaged by drug trafficking and violence associated with gold mining, the Colombian government and the FARC signed an historic peace agreement on September 26, 2016. Handicap International, accredited in July 2016 as one of the country’s four official humanitarian demining actors, is preparing to launch a five-year demining operation in six of the most contaminated departments: Antioquia, Cauca, Caquetá, Córdoba, Nariño and Meta.
- Functional rehabilitation
- Support for Disabled People's Organizations (DPOs)
- Socio-economic inclusion
- Clearance operations and Mine victim assistance
With a focus on teenagers and children, Handicap International improves the quality and accessibility of functional rehabilitation and meets the rehabilitation needs of people with disabilities and their families. At the local level, HI staff build the capacities of rehabilitation staff and conduct personalized support for beneficiaries. At the national level, Handicap International promotes national policies to support rehabilitation.
Support for DPOs (Disabled People's Organizations)
The goal of this project is to strengthen the organization of people with disabilities and equip them with the tools they need to become active and vocal members of society. Handicap International provides support by training new disabled people's organizations (DPOs) in database management and communications, as well as helping DPOs establish visual advocacy campaigns to raise awareness about disability rights.
Handicap International promotes the employment of people with disabilities in two departments of Colombia, Meta and Antioquia. Main activities of this project include creating accessible occupational training facilities and improving existing facilities, training DPOs to promote self-employment, and supporting independent entrepreneurship whenever possible.
Mine victim assistance
With the help of various partners, including Fundación REI—HI's partner since 1998—the organization works at community and national levels to improve the living conditions of victims of anti-personnel mines; advancing their rights to medical and psychological care and treatment and ensuring they are involved in each step of their treatment and care. Main activities of this project include building the capacities of public institutions to improve victim assistance services and helping mine victims access aid.
In the wake of the peace treaty between the FARC and the Colombian government, Handicap International is also planning to contribute to mine clearance efforts in the country and is providing communities with risk education on mines and explosive remnants of war.