Floodings and landslides in Mocoa, Colombia, April 2017
An avoidable disaster?
In early April 2017, extreme rainfall led to severe flooding and landslides in the city of Mocoa. While flooding and mudslides occur regularly in Colombia, this event is considered the most devastating in recent years. The people affected by the catastrophe have lost relatives, their houses and property were entirely or partly destroyed, and critical infrastructure such as electricity and water supply collapsed. This called for integral emergency relief measures covering emergency housing, food assistance, health services as well as the protection of children. Both the Colombian government and the international community were quick to provide humanitarian assistance instantly after the disaster.
In this context, the ifa-funding programme “Humanitarian assistance” on behalf of the German Federal Foreign Office funded projects of selected German partner organisations in the region of Putumayo. Mocoa, the region’s capital, is located in the South-West of Colombia at the foothills of the Andes and geographically belongs to the Amazon region. Due to multiple climates in a very confined space – from 3500 meters above sea level there is a steep decline to 300 meter above sea level – the region has always been prone to flooding and landslides. Heavy erosion, which is exacerbated by deforestation, environmentally unsound roadworks and illegal settlements, has already caused rockfalls and landslides in the past.
Environmental experts view climate change and the insufficient adaptation thereto as the two driving forces behind the disaster. Disaster prevention and preparedness are oftentimes inadequately considered, especially so in structurally weakly developed regions such as Putumayo. Moreover, the local population, among them many internally displaced people, has a decade long history of suffering from Colombia’s armed conflict, a lack of presence by the state and corruption.