BOGOTA - As insecurity continues to rise in northern Colombia, increasing the number of internally displaced people, the World Food Programme (WFP) appealed today for US$1.2 million to cover the immediate needs of 350,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), civilian victims of years of military strife in the country.
A joint agency assessment mission, conducted in rural areas of the northern municipality of Bojayá, Choco Department, also identified 1,500 people at risk of being displaced, who live in daily fear of outlaw armed groups. The outlaws set up barricades and are looting crops while the villagers are reduced to eating plantain to keep from starving.
The mission, completed last week, was carried out by WFP, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
"WFP's operation is aimed to help IDPs cope with the effects of the humanitarian situation in Colombia. It is alarming that donor funds are running dry at this crucial time," said Peter Goossens, WFP's Country Director in Colombia.
To date, WFP's current 18-month relief operation, which started in October 2003, has received contributions totaling US$14.3 million. The agency still needs US$1.2 million to cover immediate needs of the displaced through March 2005.
"Food not only provides relief but also hope. It is the first thing IDPs need to get back on their feet. But we simply do not have all the resources to help. Given that the number of the displaced is rising, we hope donors will be as generous as they have been in the past, so we can provide at least the minimum people require to carry on," added Goossens.
Based on the assessment by WFP, UNHCR and IOM of immediate needs for the 1,500 indigenous villagers living under daily threat from armed outlaw groups, community centers will be built in each locality, and an aqueduct will also be constructed in the community of Union Baquiza as part of WFP's food for work program.
Donor countries for WFP's current relief operation, which will end in March 2005, include the United States (US$6.9 million), the Government of Colombia (US$2.2 million), Japan (US$1.7 million), WFP (US$969,297), Switzerland (US$764,473), Germany (US$712,202), Denmark (US$500,000), the European Commission (US$187,726) and private donors (US$175,268).
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: in 2003 we gave food aid to a record 104 million people in 81 countries, including 56 million hungry children.
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