The governor of Nariño has reported six massive displacements of people since August 2008.
The most recent displacement involved 900 people of African descent, comprising farmers, fishermen and miners who sailed for four hours to arrive at Iscuandé and the municipal seat of Santa Barbara Sunday, on Nariño’s Pacific Coast.
“The shooting was very fierce, we all had to leave [amongst] bullets,” said Artemio Vidal, a 48 year old fisherman.
“The bullets passed above us, so we had to run without luggage … with absolutely nothing,” said civilian Jorge Alfredo Quinonez.
Mayor Juan Gregorio Valencia confirmed that the most recent exodus was due to clashes between armed groups in the villages of Santa Rita, La Maria, Chibatillo I, Chibatillo II, Chibatillo III and La Quinta.
The exiles have been crowded into schools in the city.
According to the governor of Nariño, Antonio Navarro Wolff, a few days ago there was another shift in population in the municipality. He said that in areas where the FARC makes itself known, “as the army moves clashes and harrassment occur, and farmers leave the area as a preventive measure to avoid any difficulty.”
Navarro Wolff admitted that authorities are falling short in aid that they are able to give to the new arrivals. “We’re offering emergency assistance, but not enough to guarantee better conditions,” he said.
Peace consultant for the Government of Nariño, Zabier Hernandez, said that the humanitarian crisis in the department has no antecedents, “because in the past two months we have seen six mass movements, leaving more than 2,500 displaced persons.”
Hernandez said that Social Action and the Mayor were doing what they could to help, as well as receiving assistance from the Government of Nariño to form pools to provide food, medicines and makeshift roofs.
Secretary of Government of Nariño, Fabio Trujillo Benavides, described the issue of displacement on the Pacific Coast as serious. Newspaper El Tiempo also reported that Wednesday a new exodus was reported, from the village La Maria to neighboring municipality Bocas de Satinga, due to fighting between the Army and the FARC.
According to the record of the government’s Committee of the Displaced, the number of exiles in Nariño this year already numbers 26,000. Municipalities hardest hit are Satinga, Maguí-Payán, Santa Bárbara, Tumaco and Barbacoas, all on the Pacific Coast.
The situation in Colombia’s southwest is so alarming, that the head of the delegation of the International Red Cross to the country, Christophe Beney, visited several towns in Nariño and Cauca. He was in Guapi, Iscuandé and El Charco to determine whether the displaced who had set out to return several weeks ago had actually arrived, or if they needed a second round humanitarian aid. The situation was more complex in El Charco.
“It was found that most people who had moved in response to fighting in El Charco in August are still in villages downriver from their place of origin. …. We could see the very difficult conditions under which these people were living,” said Beney.
After the Red Cross’s visit it was decided that in the coming days 1,500 people would receive a second month of humanitarian aid.