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Agency Steps Up Aid To Flood-Affected Communities

Colombia: UN Refugee Agency Steps Up Aid To Flood-Affected Communities

New York, Dec 31 2010 10:10AM

The United Nations refugee agency is boosting its efforts to provide emergency assistance to thousands of Colombians affected by recent flooding that has been called the worst natural catastrophe in the country’s history by its leader.

According to Government estimates, more than two million people have been affected by the floods, which resulted from the unusually heavy rainfall that has beset the South American nation since the middle of the year.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which runs an operation to assist more than three million people displaced by violence in Colombia, began distributing emergency aid in affected areas two weeks ago.

“We found people isolated in the hills, in places where the roads have been destroyed, and their children were hungry,” <"http://www.unhcr.org/4d1ca1786.html">said Marlene Mesa, a UNHCR staff member who took part in an aid distribution in the area of Cantagallo, south of the province of Bolivar on the Caribbean Coast.

The agency noted that dozens of town in the hard-hit north of the country remain under water. Thousands of people are living in shelters, and others have moved to less affected areas.

Mattresses, hammocks, mosquito nets, blankets, as well as shelter materials are being delivered to the areas most affected, which include the departments of Atlantico, Bolivar, Cordoba and La Guajira in the north; Santander and Norte de Santander in the East; and Antioquia and Choco in the west.

During his visit to Colombia earlier this month, High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres expressed his sympathy for those affected by the disaster.

“I would like to express the full solidarity of UNHCR and the UN in Colombia at this moment of intense pain,” he said. UNHCR has since committed additional funds to help to over 35,000 people and is signing an agreement with the Colombian Red Cross.

A three-member UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team (UNDAC) arrived in Colombia on Tuesday to support the ongoing response to the floods, including with information management tasks and the strengthening of humanitarian partners, both national and international.

Earlier this month $6 million was allocated for the post-flood effort from the local UN emergency response fund.

ends


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