Black, indigenous Colombians suffer malnutrition due to conflict: NGO

Bogota (AFP) –


Colombia's ongoing conflict with left-wing rebels has caused serious malnutrition problems amongst indigenous and black communities, according to a study led by Doctors of the World and published on Friday.

The NGO and a group of universities delivered the report to the truth commission set up to investigate atrocities related to the conflict as part of the historic 2016 peace accord that brought to an end more than a half century of conflict between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the government.

Since then, though, dissident FARC guerrillas and another leftist rebel group called the National Liberation Army (ELN) have continued to fight with government troops in a multi-faceted conflict that also involves drug-traffickers and right-wing militias.

"The dynamics imposed by the armed actors in these territories, like confinement or the laying of antipersonnel mines and explosive devices, or simply fear, make people lose the ability to procure food," Nicolas Dotta, the coordinator of Colombian Doctors of the World, told AFP.

The study looked at various black and indigenous communities in Choco, on the border with Panama, and the Awa tribe in Narino on the frontier with Ecuador, amongst others.

- 'Humanitarian crisis' -

These people are at "greater risk of contracting diseases" as well as mental health problems, physical and psychosocial incapacity, and death.

Clashes in Choco between the various belligerents have affected access to health services and forced people to shelter at home.

As well as chronic malnutrition, there have been outbreaks of malaria and tuberculosis in this jungle region that is rich in gold and where 89 percent of the population is either black or indigenous.

The ongoing conflict is "violating the right of these communities to health and basic conditions such as food and clean water," said the report.

On the other side of the country, the Awa are suffering from dispossession of their lands in areas rife with drug plantations and cocaine processing laboratories.

Government use of the controversial herbicide glyphosate to destroy illegal coca plantations, as well as pressure from criminal gangs to replace food crops with coca, have badly affected the local population's access to food, the study says.

And despite a ban on the use of glyphosate, massacres and mass displacements due to land invasions by armed gangs have left the Awa "at risk of physical and cultural extermination."

"Right now there's a humanitarian crisis," said Awa representative Robinson Pai in an interview for the report.

The ongoing conflict that has lasted almost six decades now has left nine million victims either dead, missing or displaced.