UN food agency voices concern for 2 million Colombians displaced by conflict

16 March 2004

A senior official from the United Nations emergency feeding agency voiced concern today over the plight of 2 million Colombians displaced by armed conflict, 80 per cent of them lacking access to food.

“Colombia has the largest IDP (internally displaced persons) population in the western hemisphere,” the Senior Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Jean Jacques Graisse, said at the end of a five-day official visit to the South American country.

“The effects of displacement are devastating when people are forced to leave their homes, their land and their possessions to live without proper shelter or food," he added. “More than half of these people are women and children who are especially vulnerable when living in difficult circumstances.”

Mr. Graisse referred to a 2003 WFP study showing that IDP families suffer from a 57 per cent caloric deficit. In response, WFP is strengthening its capacity to provide assistance in order to address their nutritional needs.

The agency currently provides food to some 350,000 IDPs, mainly in the northern half of the country, through seven offices located in conflict areas and towns which are vulnerable to forced displacements.

Over the weekend, Mr. Graisse visited Soacha, a reception area for IDPs from different parts of the country, on the outskirts of Bogota, the capital. One woman told him how she had to flee with her husband and children because of insecurity in Tolima, in central Colombia. "I had a house and land, and I would like to go back, but I can't. It's just not safe,” she said.

Mr. Graisse discussed the food situation in meetings with President Alvaro Uribe, as well as with donors and partners involved in the fight against hunger in Colombia.

 

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