WFP has called on donors to provide US$1 million for immediate food assistance to 6,300 Colombian refugees and asylum seekers living in Ecuador, who have fled the ongoing armed conflict in their country that has displaced almost three million Colombians.
Unless WFP receives new donations soon, it will have to cut back in other programmes or wind up its current assistance after using up the US$250,000 contribution made by Denmark last May.
The Danish contribution was sufficient for just 24 percent of the total food required.
“We are seriously concerned about the wellbeing of thousands of refugees, among them more than 1,350 children, who are especially vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition,” said Helmut Rauch, WFP Ecuador Country Director.
“Children have been separated from their communities, schools and even their parents. We need to be able to provide them with the essential tools to help them become healthy and productive adults,” stressed Rauch.
Lack of support
WFP relies entirely on voluntary contributions to finance its operations. The protection of refugees in some parts of the world, especially in Latin America, is critically undermined by the lack of sufficient international visibility and financial support.
The procedure of determining refugee status in Ecuador takes on average four to six months. In the meantime, national law dictates that asylum seekers cannot work or sign contracts during this period.
As a result, Colombian refugees are highly vulnerable to discrimination.
“When food becomes scarce, refugees often turn to desperate measures to feed themselves and their families,” said Rauch.
Between 2000 and 2005, only 10,738 Colombians out of 34,170 were recognised as refugees in Ecuador. According to UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and WFP, around 6,300 refugees require urgently food assistance every month.