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Colombia: UNHCR deeply concerned about humanitarian situation near Ecuador border

Briefing notes

Colombia: UNHCR deeply concerned about humanitarian situation near Ecuador border

7 June 2005

UNHCR is deeply concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the department of Nariño on Colombia's Pacific Coast near the Ecuadorian border. During the past three months some 1,000 people have been forced to flee their homes as a result of battles between illegal armed groups operating in the area.

More than 40 percent of those forced to flee, essentially from the municipalities of Barbacoas and Magui-Payan and their surrounding areas, have not received any type of humanitarian assistance to date. According to an evaluation made by UNHCR following a joint mission to the region with the Diocese of Tumaco, control of the region remains in dispute, raising the serious possibility of additional displacement of innocent civilians.

Further exacerbating the vulnerability of the people in the area is the almost total lack of essential services such as health, education, and housing, making the region one of the poorest in Colombia.

UNHCR stresses the urgency of helping the largely indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities in the area, who are living under vulnerable and extremely precarious conditions.

Last year more than 2,600 people were forced to flee the area as a result of heavy fighting between armed groups. Of these, only about half received some type of humanitarian aid. Reports from the region indicate that the fighting has intensified during the first five months of this year.

There are more than 1 million officially registered internally displaced persons in Colombia, but the government recently acknowledged that there are more than 2 million displaced persons in the country due to continuing fighting between illegal armed groups, and between them and the military.