BOGOTA - A senior official from the United Nations World Food Programme today expressed his concern about the plight of two million people who have become internally displaced persons (IDPs) due to armed conflict.
At the end of an official visit to Colombia - from 12-16 March Senior Deputy Executive Director Jean Jacques Graisse said 80 percent of displaced people lacked access to food.
"Colombia has the largest IDP population in the western hemisphere. 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," said Graisse. "More than half of these people are women and children who are especially vulnerable when living in difficult circumstances."
Graisse referred to the 2003 WFP study, "Vulnerability Analysis of Food Insecurity among People Displaced by Violence in Colombia" which shows that IDP families suffer from a 57 percent caloric deficit. After two years' displacement, the situation of many families has not improved. WFP is strengthening its capacity to provide assistance to a large caseload of IDPs in order to address their nutritional needs.
WFP Colombia currently provides food aid to some 350,000 IDPs mainly in the northern half of the country through seven sub-regional offices located in conflict areas and towns which are vulnerable to forced displacements.
Over the weekend, WFP's Senior Deputy Executive Director visited Soacha, a slum reception area for IDPs from different parts of the country, on the outskirts of Bogota. Speaking to some WFP beneficiaries, Graisse heard how one woman had to flee with her husband and children because of insecurity in Tolima, in central Colombia. The woman told him: "I had a house and land, and I would like to go back, but I can't. It's just not safe".
The food situation of the IDPs was discussed during Graisse's meetings with President Alvaro Uribe, as well as with donors and partners involved in the fight against hunger in Colombia.
Graisse also met the Mayor of Bogota, Luis Eduardo Garzon, to discuss the "Bogota without Hunger" initiative. WFP is interested in organizing a Hunger Forum in the capital so that national figures can discuss the issue of hunger and place it at the top of their political agendas.
According to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), 192 countries agreed to halve the number of people suffering from hunger by 2015. The Social Panorama 2003, a publication prepared by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and WFP with a chapter devoted to hunger reported that 13 percent of Colombians suffer from hunger.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency. In 2003 WFP fed nearly 104 million people in 81 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.
WFP Global School Feeding Campaign -- As the largest provider of nutritious meals to poor school children, WFP has launched a global campaign aimed at ensuring the world's 300 million undernourished children are educated.
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