Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 December 2014, 12:47 GMT

Needs of displaced persons in Colombia must be met, top UN official says

Publisher UN News Service
Publication Date 24 February 2009
Cite as UN News Service, Needs of displaced persons in Colombia must be met, top UN official says, 24 February 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/49aff7a8c.html [accessed 25 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The United Nations' top humanitarian official, on the first day of his mission to Colombia to assess relief operations for victims of natural disaster and civil strife, saluted actions taken but said much more must be done to protect civilians and aid displaced persons.

"It is clear that there is a serious humanitarian situation in Colombia, particularly the problems of millions of internally displaced persons, and that there is a requirement collectively to do more to respond to these needs," John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said yesterday in the capital city of Bogotá.

During a day of meetings, Mr. Holmes saw ministers and senior officials in the Government of Colombia, as well as humanitarian actors from the UN, Colombian civil society, and non-governmental aid organizations.

Government figures visited included the country's ministers of justice and foreign affairs, its director of the Department for Prevention and Response to Disasters (DPAD) and its presidential advisor for social action.

"Mr. Holmes praised the Government's action and progress achieved, but urged increased dialogue on the humanitarian situation and the necessary response, particularly on protecting civilians," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a press release.

There was also agreement on the need to increase prevention and preparedness for natural disasters, OCHA added.

The country has recently suffered the harshest, most destructive rainy season on record, which wreaked havoc on the Sucre, Bolivar and Chocó provinces, affecting one million people and destroying 44,000 hectares of crops.

In addition, continued violence has caused large-scale internal displacement in many areas.

In a meeting with a large group of representatives from Colombian civil society, including indigenous people and Afro-Colombian, human rights, women's and youth groups, Mr. Holmes heard a wide range of concerns about the consequences of such displacement and the continuing violence.

Mr. Holmes expressed particular concern about the situation of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, following the recent killing of members of the Awá group in a remote area in the country's south-west which the UN refugee agency says suffers from some of the worst forced displacement.

"There is a need to pay particular attention to the future of indigenous people and other vulnerable groups that have a special dependency on and attachment to their lands," Mr. Holmes said.

Today, Mr. Holmes is travelling to the Chocó region, where he is expected to meet with Afro-Colombians, indigenous communities, and groups of displaced persons.

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