FARC rebels have hijacked a boat with medical aid for the near-extinct Nukak indigenous tribe in the south of Colombia, placing the nomadic members of the tribe “in extreme danger,” NGO Survival International said Monday.
According to the NGO, guerrillas stopped a humanitarian mission led by indigenous rights organization ONIC in August and forced the medical staff on board to abandon their supplies, which included stretchers, surgical equipment and computers.
Becca Stenham of Survival International told Colombia Reports the crew was given 20 minutes to abandon the area and was forced to leave behind the only boat the ONIC has to provide aid to the nomadic members of the Nukak, .
According to Stenham, the ONIC are now left without means to deliver medical care to the members of the tribe living in the jungle which “places an even greater risk of extinction on the Nukak.”
Stenham said, “without access to health care they cannot survive. Before contact, the Nukak wouldn’t have suffered from the diseases they now do, such as respiratory disease. Because of the disastrous contact they had (around 40% died) they now have serious health concerns.”
She added, “the FARC have shown their complete disregard for the well-being of this vulnerable tribe.”
The ONIC and Survival International are looking into the possibilities to resume medical aid for the tribe, which the United Nations listed as one of 35 Colombian indigenous peoples that face an imminent risk of extinction.
The existence of the Nukak was unknown until 1988. After their initial contact with civilization, “western” diseases killed approximately half of the tribe. After fighting between leftist rebels, right-wing paramilitaries and the army flared up in the region where the Nukak live, many were forced into the town of San Jose del Guaviare, where they live in slums on the outskirts of the town. According to Survival International, 300 to 400 of a total of 600 Nukak remain in the jungle.