Colombia: MSF provides medical and psychosocial assistance to people affected by the landslide in Mocoa

MSF teams are providing psychosocial support and medical care to victims of last weekend’s landslide in Mocoa, in the southern Colombian department of Putamayo.

This follows an assessment of the victims’ humanitarian needs and is taking  place in one of the shelters set up to care for victims in the area.

The Las Americas shelter 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 as well as in the town and surrounding areas where the victims of this natural disaster have taken refuge. MSF psychologists are 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 continue to 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.

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. Medical supplies have also been provided.

The number of dead and missing continues to increase. According to the latest official reports, by last Thursday, there were more than 293 dead and 332 injured and over 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 poor hygiene and lack of safe drinking water, especially among vulnerable groups at risk.

Immediate reaction to the emergency

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 stones that caused the destruction of several neighbourhoods in the town.

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