UNHCR urges aid for displaced people in Colombia's south-west
GENEVA, June 7 (UNHCR) - Some 1,000 people have fled their homes in south-western Colombia in the last three months, reported the UN refugee agency today, warning that hundreds of them have not received humanitarian aid so far.
The displacements in the department of Nariño on Colombia's Pacific Coast near the Ecuadorian border have been caused by fighting between illegal armed groups operating in the area. The size of the recent displacement is worrying as it forms a significant part of the population in this thinly-populated region.
"More than 40 percent of those forced to flee, essentially from the municipalities of Barbacoas and Magüí-Payán and their surrounding areas, have not received any type of humanitarian assistance to date," said UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond in Geneva on Tuesday. Insecurity and logistical problems in this remote department are some of the reasons for the lack of aid.
Redmond added, "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."
The region, one of the poorest in Colombia, lacks essential services like health care, education and housing. This has made the people in the area even more vulnerable.
"We stress the urgency of helping the largely indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities in the area, who are living under vulnerable and extremely precarious conditions," said the UNHCR spokesman.
More than 2,600 people were forced to flee the area last year 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.