Colombia: Nevado del Huila volcanic eruption OCHA Situation Report No. 4

Situation Report
Originally published
Key issues

- According to INGEOMINAS the instability of the system continues, and it's possibility the concurrency of new eruptions.

- From the 26 of April, 2,037 families of the Nasa indigenous are relocated, according to their "Plan of territorial prevention"


On April 26th, facing the risk of possible new eruptions from the Nevado del Huila volcano, the Nasa indigenous authorities in Tierradentro resolved that 2,307 families in the Tierradentro reservations should leave their sacred territories to safe identified locations including the Taravira - Tálaga reservation in Páez - Belalcazar municipality and El Tambo municipality, in Cauca department. On May 3, the indigenous authorities reported that to date, 1,792 families had been relocated.

There is information that indicates that to date, 100 people from the Caloto and Tóez reservations have not left from their shelters. In addition, there are reports that another 30 inhabitants of the reservations are returning daily to care for their belongings.

To date, the agreement between indigenous, national and departmental authorities to create a contingency plan regarding potential volcanic eruptions at times such as present, are in process, when the threat of new eruptions exists and there is no way of knowing for how long the volcano will remain active. Due to this situation, the CRIC and Nasa CxhaCxha indigenous authorities declared an emergency and decided that they should leave Tierradentro, their ancestral lands. For its part, the national and departmental authorities have declared an emergency, for which reason their abandonment of the shelters is considered to be an autonomous decision on the part of the Nasa indigenous people.


According to a report by the Nasa CxhaCxha indigenous council association, 17,637 people from reservations in Huila, Tóez, Belalcázar, Tálaga, Avirama, Cohetando, Togoima, Ricaurte and Pickwe Tha were impacted by emissions of gas and ashes. The reservations of Mosoco, San José, Lame, Suin, Chinas y Vitoncó, have had 6,909 people affected to present.

According to an inter-agency mission led by Diakonia, UNICEF and OCHA, and based on a report from MSF, this is current in the sheltered population:

Health: MSF reported that there has been no disease outbreaks associated with the emergency. Despite this, there have been several disease outbreaks including: respiratory disease among children under 5 years, chronic diseases and diarrhea.

Water and sanitation: The mission observed that the shelters lacked properly constructed latrines taking into consideration the local environmental conditions, location of food and number in accord with the sheltered population. In the Taxnu-Taravira shelter, with 923 people, there are only 7 latrines. There is also a lack of potable water distribution mechanisms, and a lack of wash basins and baths.

Shelter: shelters are built as "huts" (see photo), without adequate isolation from the earth, built using plastic, which is inadequate given temperatures that fall below 12 degrees centigrade, frequent rainstorms and an altitude of 2,295 m above sea level. The shelters were therefore judged to be built not according to technical specifications required for the emergency.

Education: Classes have been suspended in 9 affected reservations and to present they have not begun.

Food: The Inter-agency Mission reported that provisions are running out and that there are inadequate conditions for food storage. Also it informed that the food provision is limited.

State Response

According to the 07 May Report Bulletin from DGPAD, to date the indigenous population has received aid since 18 April, with the support of the Colombian Air Force and Army, including 1,600 groceries, 1,500 mattresses, 2,200 blankets, 52 rolls of plastic, 13 rolls of plastic cloth, 600 cleaning kits, 3,000 cooking kits, 600 home kits, 600 first aid kits, 50 water storage tanks, 1 water treatment plant, 125 sugar cube boxes, 102 boxes of oil, 1,400 sheets of metal roofing, 30 kilos of wire, 6,720 metal ties. Other indigenous reservations donated 1 ton of food (plantain, yucca, sugar and oranges), and ICBF sent 5 tons of food, while private aid included 500 one liter bags of water.

Aid delivered from Bogotá was distributed by entities within SNPAD such as the Colombian Red Cross, Civil Defense, the Colombian Air Force and the Army.

The CxhaCxha indigenous council association prepared a "Territorial Prevention Plan", including threat, vulnerability and risk maps, with a corresponding database. Prevention work is being completed using a Social Cartography methodology. This has allowed for the identification of 40 so-called retreat safe-sites for the population to move to should there be further eruptions.

The AIC, an indigenous healthcare provider, has been placed in charge of healthcare (a doctor and nurse) in cut-off reservations. The CRC is providing support in humanitarian aid distribution and in coordinating assistance and communications.

In the areas of water and sanitation, the shelters are being attended by the Silvia firefighters and the Cauca Colombian Red Cross section. The CRC is based at Tafxnu Taravira, the largest shelter site, with 923 sheltered, including a water treatment plant. Taravira also has a HF radio which keeps the area in contact with Popayán.

In a CREPAD meeting on 15 May, which included the participation of local officials, indigenous authorities, the Director of DPAD, the Director of Aid for the CRC, OCHA, UNICEF and Diakonia, it was decided to:

- Call a National Disaster Assistance and Prevention meeting to consider the disaster risk situation, with the participation of the Directorate for Ethnic Groups from the Ministry of the Interior and Justice.

- Compile census of sheltered population by shelter

- Expressly formalize the participation of indigenous authorities within CREPAD

- Design temporary shelters and healthcare, education and food security programs in conjunction with the CRC, Civil Defense, Nasa Kivi and indigenous communities.

- To wait for INGEOMINAS lava flow models

- To hold a CREPAD meeting in the municipal seat of Páez - Belalcázar

- The CRC reported that it will request to ECHO and OXFAM support and assistance to prepare a shelter.

International Response

OFDA - USAID is supporting INGEOMINAS with 2 volcano experts over a one month time span, the same two who were consulted in February. Their work has included the activation of the Lava flow Network, and with the VDAT 5 new seismologists were employed, so that 6 are now working. Total financial support has totaled US$40,000.

MSF Spain has remained in the area and provided aid to affected populations. According to their 8 May 2007 report, they have provided medical aid and medicine to the Hospital of Belalcázar, as well as supplies and hygiene kits in Taravira and Cruz de Vivanco.

UNICEF distributed 100 blankets, 100 mattresses, cleaning kits, 3 rolls of diapers, 400 utensils kits, 500 cleaning kits and 150 school kits to families of children under 7.

Diakonie provided assistance to population sheltered with gardens for food security, and with latrines for watsan. At present they are awaiting to see GOC response following the national SNPAD meeting.

OCHA is coordinating actions with UNETE and DGPAD to establish procedures to attend to demands by the CRIC to WFP, UNICEF and UNDP. UNETE decided to conduct a mission to the shelters with OCHA, UNICEF and Diakonie. The mission report was presented in the May 15th CREPAD meeting in Popayán.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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