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Humanitarian Crisis for military aggression against Peasants in Catatumbo
Geneva, 09 August 2013
1. Brief description of the emergency and impact
A total of 12,000 peasants (campesinos), approximately 5,000 women, 4,000 men and 3,000 children are facing aggression from military and paramilitary forces resulting from ongoing demonstrations against forced displacements in the municipality of Tibu, in North Eastern Colombia on the border with Venezuela. The peasants have been on a 52 days ongoing demonstration, in order to draw attention to their demands for the government to establish a rural reserve zone for them covering 365,000 hectares. The reserve zones are territories guaranteed by the state to campesinos and indigenous communities. Without this government guarantee, large agro-industry and mining businesses would prevent these communities from farming the land. Until now, four (4) people were killed, hundreds injured and many arrested on allegations that demonstrations have been infiltrated by illegal armed groups. The government position regarding the demonstrations is ambiguous. On one hand it is committed to establish a dialogue with the peasants’ movement, but on the other hand, it is threatening the peasants with military action saying they are aligned with illegal armed groups. Now, there is a crisis of lack of food and medicines as supplies are depleted.
2. Why is an ACT response needed?
A humanitarian response is needed because civilian population is being targeted by the military. The affected population lack food and this is already impacting on children and the elderly. The lack of medicines is also a direct threat to the life of the population as well as the lack of potable water and proper sanitary conditions. The government has refused to act quickly for a negotiated solution in an attempt to force the people to abandon the demonstration as they will lack of food and medicines.
3. National and international response
The international community and local human rights organizations have been monitoring this situation, supporting attempts to find a negotiated solution. So far, there are no plans for humanitarian aid to the campesinos by either national or international agencies. There has been a modest response of trade unions, campesinos organizations and human rights groups, but not enough to meet the humanitarian needs.
4. ACT Alliance response
The local forum is assessing the humanitarian situation under the leadership of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia with accompaniment from the United Church of Canada.
5. Planned activities
The forum is planning to assist with protection activities and accompaniment to support a negotiated durable solution for this conflict, with involvement of church leaders. It is planning to meet the urgent needs of food and medicines assistance. They are already engaged in a local fundraising campaign. If is not possible to raise enough funds locally, an RRF request will be forthcoming.
Security issues and accessibility to the affected populations could be an issue for this humanitarian response.
Any funding indication or pledge should be communicated to Jean-Daniel Birmele, Director of Finance (email@example.com)