The Human Impact

Are Colombians willing to give ex-fighters a second chance?

Over the past decade, a stepped-up government military offensive against Colombia’s two main rebel groups – the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) – has prompted growing numbers of guerrilla fighters to desert and lay down their arms.

On average, 10 fighters demobilise every day in Colombia.

Since 2003, nearly 55,000 combatants from illegal armed groups have given up their weapons, including some 30,000 fighters from right-wing paramilitary groups, who disarmed during a peace process with the previous government.

The Colombian government says helping former fighters to return to civilian life is a top priority.

It runs a reintegration programme that pays ex-fighters a monthly allowance of up to $270, providing they attend school and or university, free psychological counseling and vocational training schemes.

Colombia’s reintegration process is regarded as an important step towards reconciliation and reducing the high levels of violence caused by the country’s five decades of armed conflict.

Sri Lanka’s war-traumatised at risk as aid group leaves?

It was with a heavy heart I read the press release this morning.

A desperately needed aid programme run by the charity Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) – in English, Doctors without Borders – in Sri Lanka’s war-torn north has shut down after only 18 months of operation.

I had visited the project last September and I must say what MSF was giving was no ordinary aid.

It was not distributing food to survivors of the Indian Ocean island’s almost three-decade long conflict. Nor was it reconstructing the shelled and bullet-ridden homes, schools and hospitals of Kilinochchi district.

Invest in women in conflict zones to promote change

Where would you put your money as an investor? A leading campaigner against gender-based violence says there is only one answer – invest it in women in conflict zones.

“Conflict zones have the biggest potential for change,” Eve Ensler, founder of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women, told delegates at the Skoll World Forum for Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford last week.

“If I were an investor I’d invest in conflict zones and women who live there,” said Ensler, author of the award-winning play, “The Vagina Monologues.”

After 20 years: still no aid for Bosnian rape and torture victims

Nearly two decades after war ended in Bosnia and Herzegovina, hundreds of women who survived rape and torture in the conflict are still seeking reparations and justice, with only 40 cases of sexual violence having been prosecuted so far, an Amnesty International report says.

“Justice is not only about seeing the perpetrators punished, but it’s also being able to function in everyday life,” Elena Wasylew, the campaigner for Amnesty’s Balkan team, told TrustLaw in a telephone interview from Sarajevo, where the report is being released on Thursday.

“When you ask the women, what does justice mean to you, they say justice means ‘I can access healthcare, that my children can access healthcare, that I can go to work and I don’t have to be ashamed about what happened to me,’” said Wasylew, who has worked closely with women survivors in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) over the last several years.

Nothing prepared me for what we saw in Baba Amr – Paul Conroy

 

Sunday Times photographer Paul Conroy describes the impact of the February 22 shelling of the Baba Amr district in the Syrian city of Homs. Conroy escaped after suffering leg injuries.

Nothing prepared me for what we saw in Baba Amr – Paul Conroy (mp3)

The bombardment killed U.S. journalist Marie Colvin, French photographer Remi Ochlik and seriously injured French journalist Edith Bouvier.

Conroy spoke at an event hosted by the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) on Tuesday in London.

A refugee, an amputee, a marathon runner: Abdifatah’s story

Abdifatah Dhuhulow takes a break from some training in London’s Hyde Park, February 17, 2012. ALERTNET/Shanshan Chen

For someone who struggles to run a few metres before collapsing with a stitch, I’m constantly amazed by the skill of long-distance runners, and used to think crossing the finishing line of a marathon was the height of physical achievement — until meeting Abdifatah Dhuhulow.

An amputee, Abdifatah lost his left leg due to injuries sustained as a young boy fleeing the outbreak of civil war in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu in 1991.

Introducing ‘The Human Impact’

Two Congolese boys comfort each other in a hospital in Goma, Feb. 10, 2009. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

Welcome to “The Human Impact”, a new blog by journalists of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters.

Based in far-flung corners of the world, these reporters work for the Foundation’s free global news services: the AlertNet humanitarian website and TrustLaw, an online hub for news and information on good governance, women’s rights and pro bono legal assistance.

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