Thousands hit by floods and avalanches in Colombia receive UN food aid

22 December 2008

The United Nations is bringing $500,000 in emergency food aid to 30,000 Colombians after a volcanic eruption caused massive flooding and avalanches in the northern and western parts of the South American nation.

The country’s harshest, most destructive rainy season on record has wreaked havoc on the Sucre, Bolivar and Choco provinces, leaving 24,000 people in need of assistance, according to the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

“Although the Government of Colombia’s response to the various disasters has been effective and timely, the number of victims has surpassed our expectations,” said Praveen Agrawal, WFP’s representative in Colombia.

WFP will begin by distributing a 40-day supply of non-perishable food to 4,500 people in 30 communities in San Juan, a Pacific coastal municipality in the north. The agency will coordinate the relief effort with the Colombia Institute for Family Welfare and the Social Action Agency of the Presidency.

“The most vulnerable groups are our greatest concern because they suffer the most from natural disasters. Thousands have lost everything, but WFP has the logistical capacity to help people even in the least accessible parts of the country to rebuild their lives and their communities,” Mr. Agrawal said.

Heavy rains since September have already plagued much of the country, claiming the lives of 66 people and affecting more than 1 million more. In addition, in late November, the Nevado de Huila volcano erupted, leaving some 6,000 people in need of aid.

WFP’s operations in Colombia this year have benefited more than 450,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).

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