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Relief for Colombia’s deadliest landslide in 30 years

EU programme officer for Colombia Andres Trivino assessing immediate humanitarian needs in Mocoa, Colombia
EU Humanitarian Aid Programme Officer for Colombia Andres Triviño assessing immediate humanitarian needs in Mocoa, Colombia, after the landslide that killed 290 people and displaced thousands. Photo: ACH 2017.

At the end of March, Colombia suffered its worst disaster in years, when 3 overflowing rivers provoked a massive landslide, burying seven neighbourhoods of the Amazonian town of Mocoa. Authorities recorded 301 deaths so far, but 441 people are still missing as search and rescue teams race against the clock to find survivors. The EU's partner Action Against Hunger (ACF) has long been present in these remote jungles of southern Colombia, supporting populations forcibly displaced by the ongoing conflict, and was immediately able to reach Mocoa’s survivors. 

By Hilaire Avril, Regional Information Officer for Latin America and the Caribbean, European Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection @ECHO_LatAm

Just a few hours after the landslide, ACF personnel were already delivering much-needed assistance. More than 1 500 families lost everything in a matter of minutes, as the gigantic flow of mud washed away a large part of the town. They are in immediate need of water, food and medicine.

The EU has stepped up its support with an additional €150 000 in emergency aid to Mocoa.

Many families are surviving on a single soup a day,” says Aura Mosquera, ACF’s programme manager in the region of Putumayo, where Mocoa is located. “People urgently need food and safe drinking water,” as the town’s water and power systems have collapsed, roads are cut off by the continuous downpour of exceptionally heavy rains.

ACF is assisting victims under the coordination of Colombia’s National Unit for Disaster Risk management (Unidad Nacional de Gestion de Riesgo de Desastres, or UNGRD in its Spanish acronym). The NGO has also handed out hygiene kits and tents to now homeless residents.

ACF has supported us for a long time,” said Álvaro Cruz, an indigenous community leader from Mocoa. “They have built our water tanks and provided water filters for us to be able to drink safe water; and now – after Saturday’s catastrophe – they were the first to reach us and help us with the most pressing necessities,” he explained to Andres Triviño, EU Humanitarian Aid  Programme Officer for Colombia, who was assessing needs on the ground in Mocoa this week.

Our partners were the first on the ground, and have been delivering life-saving assistance throughout this week,” says Andres. “But longer-term needs will include substantial Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) measures, as well as psychological support to those affected by the tragedy,” he adds.

The recent landslide in Mocoa, Colombia killed 290 people and displaced thousands.

Seven neighborhoods of Mocoa, Colombia, were washed away in an instant by a massive landslide caused by overflowing rivers. Photo: ACF 2017.

Indeed, many survivors are still in shock at the suddenness and scale of the devastation.

The landslide took my grandmother away,” said 4-year old Adriana. “She was in her chair, reading a book when she was taken,” she added, cradled against her silent mother in one of the shelters authorities have put up, where ACF is delivering relief items.

It is expected that assistance will remain necessary in coming weeks, as more than 12 500 students are unable to attend school (at least six have been washed away by the mud slide) and moderate to locally heavy rain are still forecast in coming days

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