BOGOTA - Millions of people displaced by years of conflict in Colombia are living in conditions of severe poverty and are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance just to cover their basic needs, according to a report by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The report, based on a joint assessment of food and basic needs by WFP and the ICRC in six provinces, aimed to provide solid data on displaced people's social and economic situation, to improve efforts by the Government and humanitarian organisations to provide relief and assistance.
The assessment did not cover the entire displaced population, but reflects general trends such as a lack of a steady income, inadequate housing, health services and education, and poor hygiene and sanitation. The sum of these problems creates the perfect environment for food and economic insecurity.
The statistics collected show that the average income of displaced families is only 42 percent of the legal minimum wage (and only 66 percent of the level recognised as the poverty line). Out of this limited income, families spend 58 percent on food, while most of the rest goes on housing and public services (water, electricity and gas). This leaves only six and three percent on health and education respectively - a major issue of concern for WFP and the ICRC.
According to the report, 44 percent of all displaced children in school age are not attending or not even enrolled in any school facility: "This is almost half the displaced population of school age. These figures are too high and will represent an elevated social cost for Colombia in the future," said WFP Colombia Director, Peter Goossens.
The assessment also points out that the Colombian government must ensure humanitarian aid and assistance for displaced people both during and after an emergency.
"This study will let us define a baseline for all the actions we are going to develop. WFP will have a wider coverage and a higher number of beneficiaries in Colombia. This joint study between WFP and the ICRC will let us work in a better, more focused and in a more coordinated way to provide assistance to displaced people in the country," Goossens said.
WFP Colombia currently provides food assistance to nearly 400,000 beneficiaries as part of its Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation and will increase the number of beneficiaries up to 500,000 in the next two years at a total cost of US$40.2 million. WFP has so far received contributions of US$4.3 million leaving a shortfall of 64 percent. Donors so far include the United States (US$3.3 million), Switzerland (US$600,000) and Japan (US$500,000).
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: each year, we give food to an average of 90 million poor people to meet their nutritional needs, including 56 million hungry children, in at least 80 of the world's poorest countries. WFP - We Feed People.
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