I'm on my way to Bogotá today to begin a two-week tour of Mercy Corps programs in Colombia. Photographer Miguel Samper and I will visit several different regions, from fertile, volcano-shadowed valleys close to the Ecuadorian border, to the modern cities of Bogotá and Medellín, to the rugged and remote Darien Gap near Panama.
In all of these places, Mercy Corps is helping those struggling the most to survive Colombia's ongoing conflict — rural families, indigenous populations, Afro-Colombians.
Not coincidentally, these are the very same populations that the International Committee of the Red Cross today described as "almost invisible."
The statement began:
With the shift of the armed conflict away from densely populated areas towards more remote regions, the plight of tens of thousands of people who still bear the brunt of the fighting has become almost invisible, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said today.
"The south and the Pacific coast are among the areas worst affected by the armed conflict," said Christophe Beney, who heads the ICRC delegation in Colombia. "Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities are especially hard hit. Many are forced to flee because of threats to their lives. Others are killed, injured or subjected to sexual violence. And yet most of their tragedies go unreported."
Miguel and I hope to uncover some of these unreported tales — not of tragedy, perhaps, but of perserverance and hope. We'll chronicle the stories families we're helping survive the effects of conflict — lives abandoned, familes broken, livelihoods lost and youth in search of a positive future.
We head to Pasto tomorrow with notebooks, still cameras and video cameras. Tune in here to read, see and hear the stories we find.