Colombia

WFP Colombia - Humanitarian Situation Report, Jul 2009

Displacement

In the municipality of Ituango, department of Antioquia, a group of some 200 people were forced to flee and temporarily settled in the urban area of the department's capital, Medellin, due to reoccurring violent confrontations between the national army and illegal armed groups, food shortages and the security risks posed by the presence of land mines on rural roads. Seven families (approximately 35 people) belonging to the Embera Indigenous community were also displaced to Medellin after having fled their homes due to threats from alleged members of illegal armed groups. As of July 27th, 933 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) received humanitarian assistance and support from the Antioquia Government, the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) and the Presidential Agency for Social Action and International Cooperation (ACCION SOCIAL). According to information issued by the Government of Antioquia, at least 800 IDPS have returned to Ituango in the past few days.

WFP Sub office in Cartagena has reported the recent displacement of 49 indigenous families belonging to the Zenu indigenous group from their land in Alto San Jorge to the rural village of Juan Jose, both located in the Cordoba department. According to government agencies, the affected families are temporarily settled in a public school building facing lack of access to food, items for personal hygiene, and basic commodities to make the space habitable.

Another massive displacement was reported in rural areas of Tierra Alta, Cordoba Department, due to the continuous clashes between three illegal armed groups over territorial control and over the recent death of an indigenous leader. Reports of recruitment of minors are permanent. The Early Warning System (SAT) reported on July 9th the displacement of 224 Zenu tribe members in the municipality of Puerto Libertador in the southern region of the Cordoba Department. It is known that other families were also displaced at this time but their location and situation is currently unknown.

In the Norte de Santander department, various members of the Yukpa indigenous community were displaced after the assassination of two community members, apparently by an illegal armed group. Local authorities facilitated the relocation of the members of Yukpa community to Cucuta, where they are being assisted by Acción Social, the departmental government, and the Catholic Church.

Natural Disasters

According to information issued by the local government of Arauquita in the Arauca Department, 243 families from were affected by the seasonal rains. The Mayor of Arauquita has informed that 1203 people are affected and 29 properties were destroyed and 18 severely damaged. These individuals require immediate assistance which will be provided by the Regional Committee for Prevention and Attention of Disasters.

In the department of Nariño the Colombian Institute of Geology and Mining (INGEOMINAS) has informed that the level of alert of the Galeras Volcano remains at Orange or Level II (probability of an eruption within days or weeks). The Colombian government continues to urge people located in nearby areas of the volcano to evacuate to safer areas. United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) together with the other UN agencies located in Pasto are closely monitoring the situation and remain in permanent contact with the relevant authorities to ensure immediate and proper response if required. All WFP staff are duly equipped with emergency evacuation supplies as per MOSS compliance regulations.

Violence

Members of an illegal armed group used a homeless woman as a human bomb to attack a police station in the municipality of Samaniego, department of Nariño, south of Colombia. According to police sources, the bomb was given to a woman by members of an illegal armed group who activated the bomb when the woman arrived at the target. The homeless woman died immediately. Various illegal armed groups are very active in surrounding areas of Samaniego, which is one of the municipalities with the highest presence of anti-personnel mines in Colombia. In this municipality WFP implements various food assistance activities, especially focusing on families and communities facing blockades in rural areas.

Colombian authorities have informed that three soldiers and two civilians were killed in an attack on a boat carrying illegal crop eradication workers. Six more people were severely injured and one person is still missing after the attack. The incident occurred Monday July 27 on the San Juan River in the department of Choco. At least 26 of the 6,000 eradication workers employed by Colombia's government have been killed in the last three years.

On Sunday July 5, in the municipality of Vegalarga, department of Huila, a WFP implementing partner for a school feeding project assisting 150 children was assassinated by members of an illegal armed group, apparently as retaliation for his proximity to the Colombian army.

In a rural area of Cordoba Department, a communitarian leader was assassinated. This person, a recipient of WFP's intervention, was in charge of overseeing the various services provided to the group of IDP=B4s he represented .

WFP implements food assistance activities in all the above mentioned municipalities and departments as part of PRRO 10588.0 "Food Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons and Other Highly Food-Insecure Groups Affected by Violence".

Indigenous

James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People, visited Colombia from 22-26 July. Mr. Anaya visited indigenous communities and held meetings with the Government of Colombia, UN agencies, members of civil society and academia, among other actors. At the end of his visit Mr. Anaya concluded that the situation of the indigenous communities in the country continues to be "critical and profoundly worrying". During the visit WFP highlighted its continuous work with indigenous communities over the past 15 years and recommended that urgent efforts be taken to adapt emergency humanitarian and development assistance to the culture and customs of these communities, particularly in the area of food security and nutrition. WFP currently implements food assistance activities for 86,000 indigenous persons in the departments of Guajira, Cesar, Magdalena, Choco and Nariño.

Cases of acute malnutrition among children under five and malnutrition compounded with tuberculosis among adults have recently been discovered among indigenous families that have been living for extended periods of time in urban areas near the Sierra Nevada mountain range. These people have lost contact with their communities and traditional customs and fallen into indigence. Infant deaths from malnutrition have been reported in the past weeks. Another common problem among indigenous communities is structural poverty combined with displacement or risk of displacement, violence from armed groups, confinement due to mines and other violent situations, which cause grave deterioration of their food and nutrition security. This situation is receiving critical attention from government institutions, several of which have approached the UN, including WFP, for complementary assistance in implementing immediate, mid-, and long-term integrated solutions to these urgent challenges.

On 31 July the project document for the Spanish MDG Window on Children, Food Security and Nutrition, approved for US$ 7.5 million, was signed by participating actors in Bogotá. Led by WFP and ICBF with FAO, UNICEF, PAHO/WHO, UNDP, ACCION SOCIAL, the Ministries of Agriculture, Social Protection, Rural Development, Interior and Justice, the Government of Chocó and community-based organizations, the joint program is aimed at improving the nutritional status of young children, pregnant women and lactating mothers and overall food security in a number of indigenous and afro Colombian communities in the Pacific Coast department of Chocó.