Forced displacement in western Colombia is at the level of a ‘humanitarian emergency’, according to a report released by Colombia’s ombudsman on Monday.
The Early Warning System (SAT) of Colombia’s ombudsman’s office has reported mass displacement in the western state of Choco, with the worst affected areas being the areas of Las Delicias, Batatal and Puerto Misael.
The preliminary statistics report 17 affected communities with numbers of those at risk being 300 in Las Delicias, 250 in Batatal and 150 in Puerto Misael. All of those at risk belong to communities of African descent.
The majority of those affected live on the banks of the Dubaza river and have been forced to leave their homes to escape the violence.
The displacement was caused, according to information from the SAT, by fighting between members of the guerrilla group, ELN, and paramilitary group, ‘Los Urabeños,’ which originally flared up in the town of Alto Baudo. Armed clashes between the two factions have been taking place sporadically since November 28, 2013.
FACT SHEET: ELN
FACT SHEET: Urabeños
Many members of these communities have left as the isolation of their communities leads to a lack of available food if the armed conflict stops them from leaving their homes.
According to El Pais newspaper, some of those affected reported not being able to leave their homes for days and having to cover themselves with mattresses to avoid being hit by bullets when they were caught in the crossfire.
The ombudsman’s office has requested that local authorities coordinate prevention and protection plans at both a national and municipal level in order to fully address the situation.
- Defensoría alerta por riesgo de desplazamiento masivo en Chocó (Ombudsman’s Office)
- Defensoría alerta por desplazamiento masivo en Chocó (El Pais)
- Defensoría enciende las alarmas por desplazamiento en Chocó (Semana)
- Defensoría alerta sobre desplazamiento masivo en Chocó (Territorio Chocano)