The joint ECHO-WFP-UNHCR mission interviewed families living in the "Las Marías" neighbourhood. Living conditions for recently arrived asylum-seekers are difficult.
A delegation of the Department for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) visited communities along the border in the province of Esmeraldas, where joint programmes offer humanitarian assistance to Colombian families fleeing from violence in their country.
ESMERALDAS. -The European Union (EU) collaborates with WFP’s food assistance programmes and supports, through UNHCR, the new initiative Children of Peace with funds from the Nobel Peace Prize that promotes educational inclusion of refugee children. The local governments support this initiative.
During the visit to Esmeraldas and San Lorenzo and to the communities of Limones and Palma Real, the EU delegation was able to verify how European funds help the integration of approximately 3,200 refugee children, the implementation of initiatives for a culture of peace and food assistance to 7,560 newcomers seeking refuge. The visit, which included the Library of Esmeraldas, the Limones’ Claretian Centre, a Children’s Centre and family homes in San Lorenzo, allowed the delegation to talk with refugee families about their most pressing needs and the reality of their lives.
Vouchers for Nutritious Foods
Thanks to the European Union’s contribution, WFP provides nutrition assistance to refugees using vouchers, as it has proven to be the most cost-effective method to improve the nutrition and dietary diversity. During its visit to a supermarket in San Lorenzo, the delegation saw how families exchanged vouchers for products of their choice from a list of recommended foods such as meat, eggs, dairy, fruits and vegetables, to have a nutritious and diverse diet. The food security and nutritional status of refugees is a challenge as chronic malnutrition affects 26 percent of children under five years. Some 62 percent of refugee children suffer from anemia, but in some areas where WFP assists refugees, the anemia rate reaches 70 percent .
WFP is developing partnerships with small farmers’ associations to allow the exchange of vouchers for fresh products. Besides promoting the dignity of the project's participants, this partnership promotes the empowerment of women and the integration of Colombian refugees in Ecuador host communities, in line with government policy. The partnership also supports local governments to build capacity in food and nutrition security and stimulate markets through local purchases, which benefits the local economy and contributes to development.
Nobel Peace Prize Funds Are for Children
Every month some 1,000 people cross the border from Colombia seeking refuge. Of the 55,480 recognized refugees living in Ecuador, 70 percent are women and children, according to the Refugee Bureau at Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador. When children flee their communities, they drop out of school.
Many find it difficult to continue their education in Ecuador because they cannot buy school supplies and uniforms, and also they lack documents certifying their schooling. On the other hand, access to education is limited in remote areas of the border or fringe areas of cities where refugees settle, reducing their opportunities to study. Another limiting factor is the need to contribute to the family income or take care of younger siblings. ECHO aid allows the integration of children from refugee families in school.
Upon receiving in December the Nobel Peace Prize, the European Union doubled the amount received up to 2 million Euros to fund the Children of Peace programme, which is expected to benefit 23,000 children with four projects in six countries: Colombian children in Ecuador and Colombia, Syrian refugee children in Iraq, children in Pakistan and displaced children in Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.