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Colombia: Governor and WFP Exchange Experiences on Emergency Management

The purpose of the Governor’s mission was to learn about WFP’s experiences in dealing with emergencies in the Latin America and Caribbean region. The Governor aims to establish an Emergency Operations Centre in Barranquilla to assist vulnerable populations living in the Caribbean coast of Colombia in case of disasters.

PANAMA –The Governor of Atlántico (Colombia), José Antonio Segebre, visited the World Food Programme Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean to get more information on how this UN agency manages emergency responses in the Latin America and Caribbean region. Form the start of his meetings with WFP staff, the Governor stated that he envisions and plans on creating an emergency operations centre, located in Barranquilla, with the aim of assisting populations affected by natural disasters in the Department of the Atlántico and other departments on the shores of the Caribbean coasts of Colombia.
“We are still concerned with the impact of last year’s Winter Wave (rainy season) on many families due to the lack of a programme that specializes in the protection and prevention of catastrophic events. The World Food Programme has accumulated extensive experience over the years in operations that bring relief to people’s suffering,” said Segebre, who added that only in his department 18,000 families were affected by the Winter Wave of 2011, considered one of the harshest in recent years.

During his two-day official visit, Governor Segebre –who was joined by Luis Tapia Garcia, Social Capital Manager of the Department of the Atlántico, and Praveen Agrawal, WFP Representative in Colombia—met with Jaime Valllaure, WFP Deputy Regional Director; with Ivo Santi, UNHRD Officer In Charge, who manages the UN Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) based in Panama, as well as with high ranking officials of the Panamanian National Civil Protection System with its headquarters in Howard.

“We believe that your experience will be key in the establishment of a special program and an Emergency Operations Centre in Barranquilla that will allow us not only to bring relief to the affected populations in the Caribbean coast of the Department of the Atlántico, but also bring assistance to towns in the departments of Magdalena, Bolivar and other places in the country in case they are affected by another Winter Wave and floods,” said Segebre.

“I’m going to tell you an anecdote when we had the opportunity to know the work of the WFP, precisely during tough times in the Atlantic region. WFP was the best organized, it was the first to get to the affected areas and it was the first to bring humanitarian relief to our people. At the time I witnessed this I wasn’t even the Governor, I was a common citizen who wanted to help our people. What I saw was the high level of organization, they were the first to get there and the ones that allowed our people to get assistance at the right time.”