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Crisis response summary: Colombia - Displacement

Date added

07 December 2015


On 26 June, 2015, military clashes between the Colombian government and rebel forces displaced 434 of the 600 Embera Eyabida indigenous people living in Urrao, the capital of Urrao Minicipality, located in Antioquia department, Colombia.

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Following the withdrawal of rebel forces, this population was unable to return to their homes and livelihoods due to the heavy presence of anti-personnel mines and unexploded ordinances left behind. It relocated to Amburra, an eight-family village two-days walk from Urrao, but soon suffered from malnutrition, given the lack of access to roads, food, clean drinking water or sanitation, leading to one child death and the evacuation (via helicopter) of 14 others (including 8 children) to Urrao on 13 August. On 21 August, Handicap International alerted the Start Fund to this crisis, noting the government’s inability to intervene due to the ongoing conflict and warning that current levels of malnutrition and other health issues would increase attempts by this population to travel through heavily mined areas. On 26 August, 48.25 hours after the Start Fund alert, £66,898 was awarded to one project, led by Handicap International, to address needs related to Education (educational materials), Nutrition (food kits), Protection (community trainings and distribution of recreational/psychosocial kits), Shelter (shelter reconstruction and NFIs) and WaSH (water filters, construction of latrines/showers, training/sensitisation). During implementation, it was discovered that the affected population was accessing water from a source near an open defecation area. As a result, WaSH activities were expanded to install the intake of water in the upper tributary to ensure access to uncontaminated water. Handicap International experienced several major challenges during implementation. First, these communities are located in a heavily forested area that is difficult to access, requiring materials to be delivered by helicopter, which was expensive and constrained by rains. Second, few people speak Spanish, making it difficult to communicate with the majority of these communities who retain their ethnic language, Embera. Agency staff were supported by teachers and the guard chief for interpretation in trainings and other activities. Third, it took time to gain the trust of this population when making structural changes to shelters. Additionally, these communities do not usually live next to each other, requiring Handicap International to run a psychosocial workshop and work with the guard chief to establish rules of co-existence to manage internal conflicts. This project reached 434 people (47.7% female, 52.3% male) with £70,781, 100% of the people displaced. Children under 18 (54.4%) and people over 50 (4.8%) together made up 59.2% of people reached.

Download the Crisis Response Summary