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UN refugee agency chief concerned about Colombia's worsening humanitarian situation

UN refugee agency chief concerned about Colombia's worsening humanitarian situation

Ruud Lubbers
Expressing concern over Colombia's worsening humanitarian situation, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers today called for more aid to help the victims of the country's decades-long conflict.

Speaking in Milan, Italy, at the premiere of a documentary film about the human costs of Colombia's war, Mr. Lubbers said the UN agency would need more than $10 million to finance its operations in South America, with $5.6 million being earmarked for Colombia.

"While the responsibility for assisting and protecting internally displaced people lies first and foremost with the Colombian Government, the dramatic worsening of the humanitarian situation in Colombia requires a greater effort on the part of the humanitarian agencies, the whole of the international community and private donors," he said.

According to UNHCR, the protracted crisis in Colombia has forced more than 200,000 people to flee their homes this year alone. In the first six months of 2002, some 900 to 1,000 people became internally displaced each day in Colombia. In all, approximately 2 million people have been displaced over the decades of conflict while tens of thousands of others have been forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries, as well as in North America and Europe.

The premiere of the documentary, "Desplazados," was hosted by UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Giorgio Armani and attended by Mr. Lubbers and Italy's Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Mario Baccini.

The 20-minute video, produced by UNHCR's Rome Office and filmed in Colombia and Ecuador this summer, describes the dramatic situation of the people who have been forced to flee as a result of the long-standing conflict in Colombia. UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie took part in the filming when she was in Ecuador in June visiting communities hosting Colombian refugees. The actress narrated the English version of the documentary, which will be released on 20 November.