BOGOTA – A total of 729 people were displaced over four days in Colombia’s Nariño department bordering Ecuador earlier in the month due to clashes between unidentified armed groups, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Friday.
In a statement, OCHA said that 257 families from the town of La Guayacana and three villages in Tomaco municipality were forced to flee their homes during April 3-7.
The displaced, belonging to indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, have taken shelter in the homes of relatives and friends while some of them are on roads or in other neighborhoods of Tumaco, the region with the highest number of coca plantations in Colombia.
The UN organization has called for the protection of these communities, saying “the presence, action and constant confrontations between unidentified armed groups” makes it likely there will be further displacements.
It also pointed out the possibility of “restrictions on movement, selective killings, threats, forced recruitment and anti-personnel mine accidents.”
The OCHA also said that some of the displaced are being “revictimized” after suffering massive displacement and restrictions on their mobility in January.
Other requirements to mitigate the damages are food security and nutrition as the affected communities are facing difficulties in accessing their livelihoods, products made from food crops (for their own use), and a generation of economic resources, according to the UN agency.
The statement added that the communities also have a need for psychosocial attention.
To tackle the emergency, the OCHA is setting up a comprehensive care unit in collaboration with the Nariño Local Coordinating Team to deliver food, hygiene kits and medical assistance.
The Mayor’s Office of Tumaco is also monitoring the situation, gathering information and conducting censuses of the affected population.
Tumaco is one of the most troubled parts of Colombia, where dissidents of the former guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN) and criminal gangs try to establish their dominance.
In January, the OCHA had reported that at least 700 people in this municipality were forced to abandon their homes in rural areas, also due to clashes between armed groups.