Coming home from a volunteer meeting today I saw a queue out the window of proportions we hadn’t seen since Venezuela. I’d estimate there were fifty people snaking out of some kind of government building.
So, I asked our taxi driver what the queue was for. He responded that the queue was for internally displaced people who were victims of Colombian conflict – often evocatively called la violencia – and waiting for some kind of government benefit.
Between four and a half and five million Colombians fled their homes as a result of violence and have settled elsewhere in the country. That’s on top of many other international refugees, especially to Ecuador. More on that when we go there. Until last year Colombia had more internally displaced persons (IDPs) than anywhere else in the world. Now it’s second to Syria. Many have ended up in communities on city fringes, like Barrio Fundadores where we teach.
We’re hoping to find out more about the IDP community and the assistance government gives them. Our host sister works as a government psychologist dealing with those who have experienced trauma. And it now seems the government provides some kind of financial assistance. But it’s unlikely these programmes can effectively make up for the massive loss of social capital IDPs struggle with when they flee their homes.