EL ESPECTADOR, February 25, 2023


(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Colombia, Mireia Villar, has warned of the risk of extinction being run in some “indigenous peoples and communities” in this country. They are victims of the violence of the armed conflict and also of natural disasters.

“The displacement they are subjected to, the impact on their livelihoods, the use of their territory for purposes contrary to their world vision, all mean that we are losing languages, people, and approaches to spirituality,” lamented Villar at the launching of “Strategy to promote humanitarian management for the indigenous peoples.”

This document, prepared by the United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), seeks to make visible the humanitarian situation confronting the indigenous peoples in Colombia, while at the same time, proposing a plan of action to respond to their most pressing necessities, starting with dialog with the indigenous authorities. Nearly two million indigenous people live in Colombia according to official statistics. They are divided into 115 peoples that indigenous organizations say amount to 3 million people. Around 90,000 people were victims of the conflict in 2022, and 10,000 were victims of natural disasters, according to OCHA figures.

In this respect, the strategy explained that right now 22 peoples are living at risk of extinction and 62 people are living under threatening conditions. Besides that, it indicates that the indigenous peoples represent 41% of the people affected by humanitarian emergencies like the displacements and the confinements.

The United Nations statistics are more conservative than those revealed by the Human Rights Observatory of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC). Their statistics show that 2022 was the most violent for the indigenous peoples since the signing of the Peace Agreement in 2016, as the number of indigenous victims of human rights violations has increased by more than 100%, from 6,381 victims in 2017 to 453,018 in 2022.

The organization maintains that of the total number of victims last year, 433,580 suffered confinement, 8,183 suffered forced displacement, and 7,711 suffered harassment. These three kinds of harm injured more than 60 % of the victims.

Of the 115 indigenous peoples that exist in Colombia, 50 were affected by those violations of human rights. The Zenú people were the most affected, with a total of 238,010 victims; the Emberá nation follows with 148,703 persons affected, mostly by the limitation imposed on their free movement in the interior of their ancestral territory; the Awá people had 12,465 victims of confinement, massive displacement, and harassment.

“In spite of the constant warnings and demands to the government and to government agencies, the systematic extermination of our indigenous peoples is unceasing. In the almost two months of this year, a large quantity of human rights violations against our indigenous peoples have been registered: Events like the feminicide of our comrade Inga Deisy Marileidy Naucil; the murder of Taita Marcos López Enriquez of AICO; the risk to the Awá people from the confrontations with the armed groups in Nariño,” reported ONIC.

Among the main problems that confront the indigenous, the UN document highlighted the violence in the territories to the extent that, according to the Unified Register of Victims, for April of 2022, they counted 249,699 victims.

That is why the Secretary General of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), Gerardo Jumi, called upon the Colombian government and on the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN), at present on paths of peace negotiations, to urge that they arrive at “cessation of hostilities” in a unilateral manner “to protect the civilian population.”

To confront the attacks, threats, confinements, displacements, recruitments, and murders, OCHA proposed updating the community protection plans, as well as strengthening the indigenous guards.

Health and food security

The index of food insecurity in homes was another of the problems identified, as malnutrition and other illnesses associated with it constitute the principal cause of death among children younger than 5 years.

The Ombudsman’s Office reported in January that in 2022, 308 children in that age group had died, which shows an increase of 111 cases in comparison with the previous year.

Grandfather Fidencio Valencia, of the Uitoto People, and Grandmother Blanca Nieves of the Muisca, attended the launching of the OCHA strategy. They stressed the importance of their medicines, since “there are things that the doctor cannot cure.”

As a result, one of the proposals in the strategy focuses on promotion of “our own health care systems” and on establishing “mechanisms for monitoring and strengthening the attention to health in emergency contexts that allow some minimums of adaptations in the care that’s given.”

“We in the humanitarian community have wanted to be open to learning, understanding, and seeking paths in the communities about ways we can do this work that we are so very committed to and also so concerned about,” said Villar.

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