Colombia + 1 more

ODPC-WFP Emergency Situation Report on Latin America and the Caribbean 14 Oct 2003

Situation Report
Originally published
#42 / 2003

a) Significant Events:

Clashes of military/police forces and demonstrators on 11-12 October has resulted in more than 50 deaths and 100 injured, according to media reports. The cities of El Alto and La Paz have been the main centers of the conflict. Moreover, since Monday 13th the conflict has spread across other regions, mainly the departments of Cochabamba, Chuquisaca and Oruro. The airport of La Paz, located in the city of El Alto, remains closed to domestic and international flights.

The protesters, mainly workers, peasants, miners and civic organizations, have switched their main demand from stopping any plan to export gas to the President's resignation. However, the international community has supported the current President. On Monday the President confirmed he would not resign, although the Vice-President withdrew the executive power (he remains as president of the Congress), and the Minister of Economic Development resigned.

On the third day of road blockade and closure of food markets, shortages of food, gasoline, gas, medicines and other inputs have worsened. Three children died in the General Hospital (the main public hospital in the city of La Paz) due to the lack of oxygen. This hospital is also suffering from shortages of medicines and food. All banks are closed and ATM cash machines depleted. Newspapers have also reduced the size of today's release because of paper shortage. People who could not move from the bus terminal in La Paz to their cities in the country are sheltered in the terminal with limited food available to them.

b) Implementation

In order to provide food to the General Hospital and the temporary shelter in the bus terminal, WFP in coordination with WHO has borrowed food from a WFP-supported Street Children Center, as there is no safe access to the main warehouse located in the city of El Alto.

WFP, WHO and UNICEF are permanently in contact in order to assess security and possible support to vulnerable groups. WFP is also in contact with the Red Cross. WFP, WHO and UNICEF attended on 14 October the local Emergencies Committee meeting. No additional food was requested to WFP in that meeting.

c) Security

  • Phase II has been extended to Cochabamba Department. Originally only La Paz was declared under this phase.

  • WFP office is closed along with all other UN agencies. Only essential staff is working with access to e-mail through Webmail. However, on 14 October the essential staff could not reach the office because of street blockades and demonstrations.

  • Airport in La Paz closed. No land transportation is possible from or to La Paz. No public transportation is available within La Paz.

  • No reported injuries to WFP staff and property. All WFP staff are accounted for through regular radio/handy and cellular-phones contacts.

  • All field visits and distributions have been cancelled.

  • Because shipments of food are now at the port in Peru, warehouses at the 7 EDPs are almost empty.
La Paz (Phase II)

Although the warehouse is located in the city of El Alto, where the conflicts were centered, no damages or attempts of looting have been reported. WFP and counterparts offices have not been attacked.

Cochabamba (Phase II)

WFP's sub-office is located in public premises (Prefecture). On Monday 13th demonstrators tried to attack the premises. Police forces timely protected the premises and staff, including WFP food monitor, were able to leave their offices. The food monitor is not going to the office, but is in permanent contact through phone and e-mail. Vehicles and trucks were moved to a safe place. The warehouse, located outside the city of Cochabamba, is safe.


Conflicts are rapidly increasing. WFP's sub-office is located in public buildings (Prefecture). Today, the premises were declared as a target of demonstrators. Police is now protecting the premises. The food monitor left the office and is in permanent contact through phone and e-mail from his house. Vehicles and trucks were moved to a safe place. The warehouse, located in the same buildings, is protected by police.


No conflicts reported in this Department. The food monitor at the office is reachable through radio, e-mail and phone.

Situation in other Departments

Other Departments where EDPs are located are Oruro, Potosí, and Tupiza. Oruro reports increasing conflicts. However, since the warehouse is in the city's suburbs, no problem has been reported. In Potosi the warehouse is protected by police. In Tupiza the counterparts' office and warehouse do not report problems so far.


a) Significant Events

The rainy season has intensified and floods have generated an emergency situation, in the departments of Sucre and Cordoba, where WFP has a satellite office. Persons displaced by violence, living in slum areas and in precarious conditions are the most affected by the heavy rains.

In the region of Catatumbo, Norte de Santander, fumigation of illicit crops continues and is producing displacement of farmers from rural areas to the urban centers. In order to tackle the rising problem, regional authorities are asking the central government to consider the manual eradication of coca plants instead of chemical fumigations.

The situation and living conditions of indigenous people living in slums in Bogota and in the Department of Cundinamarca is alarming. They face ever present insecurity and lack of resources and food. They are also quickly losing their cultural identity. WFP is working with indigenous organizations to support these families.

The Colombian Army's operation in search of the eight foreign tourists kidnapped a month ago is causing fear and there have been reports of displacements of indigenous people and farmers towards urban centers in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Martha.

In the south of Department of Cordoba, hostilities from illegal armed actors caused the displacement of indigenous people to the urban center of Tierralta.

b) Implementation

A working group has been set up Bogotá in order to coordinate the Integral Project for Income Generation and Social Organization of Displaced Indigenous People in Bogota. The project is supported by the WFP, UNHCR, the UNDP, NGOs and Government Agencies. WFP will provide more than 4,800 rations for Food for Work and Food for Training activities, over a period of four months.

In the week of the 14th of October, WFP will make the first distributions of food under PRRO 10158.


a) Significant Events

Tropical systems that lingered over the country during the reporting period caused heavy rains, landslides and localised flooding. Populations particularly affected are along the River Lempa delta, on the Pacific Coast in the mountainous coffee producing departments of Ahuachapan and Sonsonate as well as in the capital San Salvador. Affected communities are not yet considered to be in a situation of food insecurity but WFP is closely monitoring the situation.

Cases of Dengue Fever continue to rise, the Ministry of Health is attending an average of 67 news cases per day with 81 reported cases of the mortal hemorraging strain of the virus.

b) Security

The National Assembly approved a controversial law this week outlawing youth gangs, the measure is in response to sky rocketing levels of gang violence. The law has been criticized by human rights groups whom oppose the laws enabling police to arrest minors from the age of 12, a clear violation of "The International Treaty on Children's Rights", of which El Salvador is a signed party. In addition, the lengthy prison sentences which can be handed down and the flexible definition of who is considered to be a gang member has been criticized. A much heavier police presence has been noted since the laws inception over 3,000 gang members arrested to date this year. Local UNSECOORD and UNDP officials are closely monitoring the situation as it could have serious implications on the security situation nationwide. The departments of Sonsonate, La Paz, Usulutan, and San Miguel remain at Security Phase II.

c) Implementation

The baseline study for the PRRO 10212 has continued with group interviews in 16 different communities. Operations for the PRRO 10212 are expected to expand over the coming weeks as disaster mitigation projects are incorporated in the Eastern departments of San Miguel, Morazan and La Union. MOUs are being drafted with World Vision and an assortment of National NGOs to validate partnerships under the expanded operation.

d) Pipeline

The Country Office continues to work closely with USAID to ensure a much-needed contribution of 2,920 MT arrives as planned before December 15 to avoid pipeline breaks.


a) Significant Events

On October 6, landslides caused by heavy rains swept down on poor areas of the capital Port au Prince, killing at least 12 people and leaving dozens of others homeless. At least five people were injured and 14 reported missing following the avalanches.

Schools and businesses shut down in Haiti's second city of Cap-Haitien in a show of support for opposition politicians' calls for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to resign on 6 and 7 October.