Ongoing conflict between rival armed groups in the western department of Chocó is impacting heavily on at least 14 indigenous communities in the region who are unable to move freely or to leave their villages due to the dangerous situation. This has generated severe economic and social consequences, as people are unable to work, access food or attend school.
According to the local United Nations office, 751 families have been affected by the instability, with 3,700 people at high risk of serious human rights violations. ‘Due to the intensity of the incidents, the affected communities present a strong need for medical and psychosocial attention’, said the UN.
With roads and communications controlled by armed groups, there is insufficient food reaching communities that are unable to harvest their crops. People who alert authorities have been threatened and explosive devices have been left on public roads. The conditions open up the strong possibility of a large displacement of communities.
On 19 August, 20 members of the indigenous community of Santa Marta de Curiche were held and abused by paramilitaries for several hours, according to Colombia’s National Ombudsman. In a separate incident, on 4 July around 40 people were detained and threatened.
Chocó has seen high levels of instability since the peace agreement was signed in 2016, as rural regions long affected by conflict continue to experience high presence of armed groups competing to control illicit economies.