UN agency reports fresh violence against indigenous communities in Colombia

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) promised to step up its activities in the region to improve protection for Embera-Catío ethnic group.The inhabitants of Las Playas in the Urabá region are extremely frightened and are considering fleeing to the town of Apartadó following the murder of three of their leaders last week, reportedly by machete-wielding assailants, UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told a news briefing in Geneva.Fear is also spreading to other indigenous communities in the Urabá region, she said. Guerrilla groups opposed to the Government are known to operate in the zone. A UNHCR team, which trekked through the jungle on foot to visit Las Playas on Friday after receiving reports that the three leaders had been killed last week, quoted witnesses as saying armed men entered the settlement of some 300 on 6 December and asked for the three by name. “They then took them to a riverbank and brutally murdered them with machetes,” Ms. Pagonis said. Before leaving the village, they threatened to return. The community had not received any specific threats from any armed group before. UNHCR’s representative in Colombia, Roberto Meier, pledged that the agency would step up its activities and visits to Las Playas, security permitting, to improve protection for the community. Government officials, including from the offices of the ombudsman, mayor and general prosecutor, as well as the police and the army have also visited the community following the killings. Overall, UNHCR is working to help the Government respond to the needs of some 2 million displaced people. This includes supporting displaced and at-risk communities, particularly Afro-Colombian and indigenous groups who are often disproportionately affected by the conflict. read more

Brock ergonomics lab partners with American virtual human simulation company

Brock University students studying the relationship between workplace injuries, ergonomics and fatigue are set to benefit from a $1.9 million contribution of related software from a U.S.-based company.Brock University Assistant Professor of Kinesiology Michael Holmes has partnered with SantosHuman Inc. through the Santos University Program to enable Brock’s Neuromuscular Mechanics and Ergonomics Lab access to the company’s predictive virtual human modeling and simulation software for research and study purposes.“SantosHuman has emerged as a world leader in digital human modeling and the power of this technology is an innovative step forward for the ergonomics profession,” Holmes said. “This software allows us to evaluate, in detail, the physical demands of a user while interacting with various workplace and tool designs. This approach can lead to improved worker safety.”A Canada Research Chair in Neuromuscular Mechanics and Ergonomics, Holmes’ research examines how the brain and nervous system interact with the mechanics of hand, arm, shoulder and neck muscles as a variety of tasks are performed.Brock Kinesiology student James Parkinson demonstrates some of the equipment now available in the new Neuromechanics and Ergonomics Lab.His lab integrates motion capture, robotics and neurophysiology to understand muscle recruitment, fatigue and injury. The Santos University Program will provide an additional virtual human resource to enhance and expand the University’s high-fidelity workplace simulations.“The Santos Institute is excited to be a part of Brock University’s research on upper extremity pain and injury, including carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injury,” said Tim Marler, Chief Research Officer and Director of the Santos Institute, who called it an important area of research.The partnership will also provide Brock students access to SantosHuman’s unique predictive human simulation software.“Our undergraduate and graduate courses in ergonomics will use the software for unique applied and practical learning opportunities,” Holmes said. “This sets our students up for success in a competitive work environment.”SantosHuman provides virtual human simulation solutions to some of the most recognizable companies in the world. The software offers a comprehensive approach to predicting human physical behavior and performance that can consider human strength, fatigue, flexibility, balance, vision, body-borne equipment, external forces and environmental conditions. read more