Drug wars force forest nomads to flee

April 3, 2006

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150 Indians belonging to one of the last nomadic tribes in the Amazon have been forced to flee their land after becoming caught up in Colombia's drugs war.

Large numbers of left-wing guerrillas have taken over the Indians' territory, and are engaged in fighting with the Colombian army and right-wing paramilitaries. All sides are seeking to control the lucrative drugs trade which thrives in this remote region.

The Indians belong to the Nukak-Makú tribe, who live in the eastern Colombian Amazon. The tribe first made contact with white people in 1988. Around half the tribe have died since then from diseases such as flu and measles, leaving a population of about 500. In 1997 a Survival campaign succeeded in gaining legal protection of the Indians' territory on paper.

Until recently most of the Nukak were trying to continue their nomadic hunter-gatherer way of life in the face of waves of violence against them and the colonisation of their lands by poor Colombians growing coca. However, the scale of the fighting now taking place has made their life in the forest impossible, and the very survival of the tribe is now at risk.

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For more information call Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]