08 April 2017

In the early hours of Saturday, 1 April, heavy rains caused the Mocoa, Mulato and Sancoyaco rivers to overflow, causing landslides in several parts of Mocoa. The flooding of these three rivers triggered an avalanche of mud and stone that caused the destruction of several neighbourhoods of the town.

After completing an assessment of the humanitarian needs of the victims of the mudslide that occurred last weekend in the town of Mocoa, located in the south of Colombia, in the department of Putumayo, an MSF team has started to provide psychosocial support and medical care to the victims at one of the shelters that have been set up to care for the victims in the area.

In the Las Americas shelter, which has taken in hundreds of families and people who have lost everything, MSF doctors and psychologists are conducting primary health consultations, prioritising the care of vulnerable groups, women and children. In the first two days of the intervention, the team carried out 37 medical consultations.

Mental healthcare is provided in the shelter, the town and surrounding areas where the victims of this natural disaster have taken refuge. MSF psychologists have begun to work with the community, conducting group psychosocial activities and providing individual consultations to help the victims cope with the loss of their loved ones and their homes, and to restore normality after the disaster that caused the destruction of more than 17 neighbourhoods in the area.

"People are distraught by the loss of their families and belongings, there is a persistent fear of the possibility of a new natural disaster” says Laura Garzón, one of the MSF emergency team psychologists.

MSF, Doctors Without Borders, Colombia, Landslides
More than 3000 families have been affected by the landslides in Mocoa region, Colombia. Photo: Angel Cabello

In the first days of care, 10 individual psychological consultations were conducted, and group assistance was provided to 80 people, including talks on sexual violence prevention and medical supplies have been provided.

The number of dead and missing continues to increase. According to the latest official reports, up until this Thursday, there are more than 293 dead, 332 injured and more than 3,000 families affected.

The MSF team will continue to assess the needs of those who are not being cared for in the shelters, and monitor possible epidemic outbreaks due to the poor hygiene conditions and the lack of safe drinking water, especially among vulnerable groups at risk.

MSF, Doctors Without Borders, Colombia, Landslides
MSF is providing assistance to the victims of landslides in Mocoa region, Colombia. Photo: Angel Cabello 

Immediate reaction to the emergency

Within hours of the disaster an emergency team was sent from different parts of Colombia, where for 15 years MSF has been providing primary, mental, sexual and reproductive healthcare to victims of armed conflict and violence among isolated populations in 20 departments of the country.

Find out more about MSF's work in Colombia here