WFP Colombia - Humanitarian Situation Report, 01 - 12 Mar 2009

Situation Report
Originally published
Alarming trend of rising violence, internal displacement and confinement against ethnic groups

Ethnic groups continue to be targeted by illegal armed actors in different parts of the country. Clashes between illegal armed groups have been reported, causing massive displacements of people in different municipalities and regions.

In the department of Choco, tense clashes between illegal armed groups fighting for the control of illegal crops in isolated areas of the province have lead to a massive displacement of more than 900 persons from eleven indigenous communities located in rural areas of the municipality of Alto Baudo. According to information issued by local authorities this group of persons arrived at the indigenous village of Catru Central, located 4 hours by river from the urban center of the municipality of Medio Baudo. The number of displaced persons has surpassed the number of inhabitants of the community and both, the community and the displaced families, are facing overcrowding, lack of food and have overloaded the minimum basic sanitation infrastructure of the community. Indigenous leaders have also informed that some 3,000 people are blockaded by the continuous clashes. Apparently eight members of the indigenous community have been taken by the rebels and it is unknown if they are still captive or murdered. The International Committee of the Red Cross is visiting the area in order to provide emergency assistance. WFP office in this department is monitoring the situation and is ready to provide emergency food assistance if required.

In Lopez de Micay, department of Cauca, 116 afro Colombian families have temporarily settled in this municipality after being displaced from two villages located in rural areas of this municipality, fearing retaliations from illegal armed groups with presence in the area. According to a census prepared by the municipality, there are currently 576 persons displaced in López de Micay among which 161 are children. Local authorities have indicated that their capacities to cope with food and healthcare needs are reaching their limit. The Presidential Agency for Social Action (ACCION SOCIAL) is delivering emergency humanitarian assistance to affected families. WFP is monitoring the situation to provide additional assistance if required.

The recent murder of 27 members of the Awa indigenous community in the department of Nariño that consequently lead to the massive displacement of more than 1,500 members of the community, keeps forcing massive displacement of people towards urban areas of different municipalities of the department. An indigenous primary school located in the indigenous reservation of El Diviso has recently informed that some 160 Awa children have arrived at the area in the past few days after being forced to leave their homes by illegal forces. Two more members of this community were murdered in the past few days apparently as retaliation by members of an illegal armed group. WFP provided urgent food assistance immediately after the displacement of the first groups of displaced indigenous persons who arrived at the municipalities of Samaniego and Buenavista.

In all the above municipalities and departments, and as part of PRRO 10588.0, WFP carries-out several food assistance activities in response to the complex humanitarian situation faced in different parts of Colombia.


Situation remains tense in Neiva, capital city of the Department of Huila. The Colombian President Alvaro Uribe ordered last Saturday, March 07, the militarization of some neighborhoods in this city, hours after a bomb exploded and destroyed a hardware store and several other businesses nearby. On January 16, a car packed with 40 kilos (88 pounds) of explosives was detonated at the Los Comuneros mall in downtown Neiva. Information issued by authorities indicates that members of illegal armed groups operate in different neighborhoods of the city. WFP has a field office in this city; however no incidents against WFP staff or infrastructure have been reported.

Members of an illegal armed group attacked and destroyed part of the aqueduct that provides water to Villavicencio, capital city of the department of Meta, central Colombia. 90% of the 300,000 inhabitants of the capital have faced severe shortages of water supply for more than 6 days. Local authorities have imposed measures to secure water supply for hospitals, schools and public places. The rest of the city is fulfilling its basic water needs through some water tankers trucks. The water pipeline was destroyed in three different points and experts have confirmed that it will take at least another week to fully restore the service to the city, as the security conditions in the areas of the damages are yet to be secured and cleared by the army and the police. Last Tuesday March 10 two police officers were severely wounded after a landmine exploded near the water plant during the early evaluation of the damages. WFP implements different food assistance activities in this department as part of PRRO.

WFP assists people affected by natural disasters in southern Colombia

WFP has provided emergency food aid to more than 5,000 people of different indigenous communities in the region of Tierradento, southern department of Cauca, who are still facing difficult humanitarian conditions after being severely affected by the avalanches caused by the eruption of the Nevado del Huila Volcano last November, which destroyed basic infrastructure and killed 12 people. Many affected indigenous families are temporarily located on high lands of the indigenous reservations of Talaga and Avirama, where WFP has made additional logistic efforts in order to reach affected families due to the difficult conditions of access to the area where they are located.

In the municipality of Tumaco, department of Nariño, WFP Colombia, with the support of the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office, has provided emergency food assistance for more than 1,400 persons affected by floods caused by the constant rain fall which on mid February increased the water level of the rivers Mira and Telembi, severely affecting the coastal municipality of Tumaco and the municipalities of Sotomayor, Barbacoas, Mallama, Ricaurte and Roberto Payán, leaving over 40,000 people affected, 8 dead, and 22 missing. WFP office in this department is planning to provide assistance to a total of 15,000 affected persons and is working jointly with Colombian authorities, UN agencies and other humanitarian actors in order to provide emergency assistance. The Colombian Government has recently announced that it will invest more than 3 million dollars in order to provide conditions for the reconstruction of the basic infrastructure and livelihoods of the region.

Galeras Volcano eruption alert in Colombia

The Colombian Institute of Geology and Mining (INGEOMINAS) has informed that the level of alert of the Galeras Volcano remains in Orange or Level II (Probability of an eruption within days or weeks). Two recent low level eruptions allowed a partial release of the cumulative pressure within the volcano. Ingeominas has informed that although these two eruptions have allowed a partial release of the cumulative pressure within the volcano, the presence of the magmatic material near the surface deserves special attention and monitoring. The Colombian government continues to urge people located in nearby areas of the volcano to evacuate to safer areas. All UN personnel, including WFP, have been recommended to maintain permanent awareness and be prepared and equipped for evacuation. Only essential missions to Pasto and nearby areas are authorized by UNDSS until further notice. United Nations Security Coordination Office together with all UN agencies located in Pasto are closely monitoring the situation and they are in permanent contact with relevant authorities to ensure immediate and proper response if required.