When a Marxist rebel group told Julio Roberto Pedraza to hand over his land or his two sons would be forced into its ranks, Pedraza and his family of 14 piled into the first vehicle passing by -- a truck hauling firewood to the nation's capital. \nThey arrived in Bogota from their village in southwest Colombia with nothing but the shirts on their backs and spent the next two years in a tin shack, scraping a living through odd jobs. \nLike tens of thousands of other families in Bogota displaced by the nation's civil war, one of their biggest troubles is that they don't have identity cards or papers -- without which they can't get a proper job or qualify for emergency assistance, since the state doesn't formally know they exist. \nThis month, though, the Bogota mayor's office and the UN took a step toward ending their legal limbo with a series of pilot programs to document displaced families in some of Bogota's poorest and most violent neighborhoods. \nPedraza, 37, and his family stood in long lines in a dusty school yard in the Ciudad Bolivar slum last week to take free blood tests and photographs before providing a signed testimony of their flight from violence, all of which is required to receive documentation. \nRecent legislation obliges authorities to accept their testimony on good faith because most don't dare return to their homes to find proof of their origins. \nPedraza hopes that with papers, he will build a better life. \n"I can't feed my family," said Pedraza, a small weathered man who still prefers to wear farm garments and rubber boots. "I hope the state will be able to help me a little bit." \nA 40-year-old civil war in Colombia that pits two leftist rebel groups against right-wing paramilitary fighters and government forces has displaced between 2 and 3 million people, about 8 percent of the population, according to the United Nations. \nNearly 20,000 families forced from their homes make their way to Bogota's slums every year. That prompted Mayor Luis Eduardo Garzon to declare a state of emergency in refuge-flooded Ciudad Bolivar earlier this year. \nThe government increased efforts to provide welfare and health services to refugees after a Colombian court in January ordered President Alvaro Uribe to fulfill a promise to address the issue. But it's a logistical and financial nightmare. \nIn Ciudad Bolivar, few people know their rights. Even fewer have the money to pay for documents recognizing their refugee status -- or even their very existence. \n"They have to get blood tests -- that's 10,000 pesos (US$4). They have to get photographs -- that's anything from 5,000 (US$2) to 10,000 pesos (US$4)," said Zandra Munoz, director of City Hall's refugee outreach effort. "When you're looking at a family with five kids or more, they can't even afford the bus fare to get to the registrar's office." \nAnd for those who do register, there is a two-year waiting list for emergency assistance, which then provides three months of food, shelter, education and social security. \nAn agreement signed earlier this year by the government, local authorities and international organizations simplified and sped up the documentation process, paving the way for the pilot projects in Ciudad Bolivar and elsewhere. \nAldo Morales of the United Nations refugee agency said the program was hugely popular and hopes it will eventually be repeated across the country. \n"We will probably register around 2,000 people," says Morales. "But for every thousand that come today we know there are thousands that we've missed."
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
LIFELONG LOSS: Jiro Hamasumi, who was not quite born when an atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, lost his father and other relatives, but said he thinks about his father daily As Japan marks 75 years since the devastating attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the last generation of nuclear bomb survivors is working to ensure their message lives on after them. The “hibakusha” — literally “person affected by the bomb” — have for decades been a powerful voice calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. There are an estimated 136,700 left, many of whom were infants or soon to be born at the time of the attacks. The average age of a survivor now is a little over 83, according to the Japanese Ministry of Health, lending an urgency as they share their testimonies