Colombia flooding affects nearly 30,000 children. UNICEF urgently requests HK$19.1 million to respond to immediate needs of victims in Colombia.

Colombia flooding affects nearly 30,000 children. UNICEF urgently requests HK$19.1 million to respond to immediate needs of victims in Colombia.

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A small girl stands inside the doorway of her home in Moravia, a poor neighbourhood in Medellín, capital of Antioquia Department.

In September 2009 in Colombia, the nations 44 million inhabitants continue to suffer from one of the highest income gaps between rich and poor in Latin America, more than 40 years of conflict, endemic social violence and rampant drug trafficking that affects all social strata and sustains the conflict. More than half a million Colombians have fled the country and another 3 million are internally displaced; 57 per cent of the displaced are children. Since 2005 Colombia has also had the highest number of casualties from landmines and other unexploded ordnance (UXO). In 2008, flooding in different parts of the country affected 1.2 million people and killed 76. Among other negative affects on children, education is frequently disrupted or does not adequately address their special needs and 12 per cent of children aged 5-17 years do not attend school. To respond, UNICEF, supported by more than US $1 million from the Government of the Netherlands, is working with the Ministry of Education, other UN agencies, civil society and private sector partners to implement an integrated Education in Emergencies strategy. The programme supports community and local government initiatives and institutions in emergency-affected departments. Initiatives identify vulnerable out-of-school children and help them return; support quality primary and secondary education that promotes gender equality, diversity, a culture of peace and respect for human rights; improve social and study skills and self-esteem among students, refer victims of abuse and sexual violence for psychosocial assistance; and encourage the participation of parents and other community members.

Located in North-west part of South America, Colombia is centred on violence related to conflict, illegal drug trafficking, landmine accidents and extortion for four decades, which put women and children at grave risk. Hundreds of thousands of Colombians have been forced to abandon their homes and become internally displaced. 

Recent heavy rains and consequent flooding have aggravated existing vulnerabilities caused by armed conflict in south-western Colombia, resulting in a humanitarian crisis affecting 74,000 persons, of whom 29,600 are children.

As floodwaters are moving landmine and unexploded ordnance to new unmarked or unknown locations, people are more exposed to risks associated with them. It is reported that there are 20,000 landmines in the affected areas. 42 schools are reported to be affected by the presence of landmines and unexploded ordnances, preventing children to attend classes.

On the other hand, there is a high risk of disease outbreaks due to contaminated water sources and poor sanitation – there is urgent need to provide safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene messages.

UNICEF requests HK$19.1 million to cover key interventions in the areas of protection, education, water, sanitation and hygiene, health and nutrition in the affected areas over the coming six months to reach immediately 74,000 persons in which 29,600 are children. Below are the details of the assistance:

Health and Nutrition

  • Distribute life-saving relief supplies including basic kit with essential medications especially oral rehydration salts, micronutrients and Ready to Use Therapeutic Food for children and pregnant and lactating women.
  • Support the continuation of breastfeeding and ensure access to quality complementary food for children between 6-23 months.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

  • Provide filters and water storage tanks to ensure provision of safe water to affected families and children.
  • Provide access to appropriate sanitation and hygiene facilities and distribute personal hygiene kits.
  • Promote good hygiene practices and hand washing with soap through community leaders, health workers, teachers and students.

Education

  • Implement a Back-to-School campaign to ensure that all children return to learning in a safe environment as soon as possible.
  • Provide school kits for children living in affected areas.
  • Supplies for adequate temporary classrooms, including temporary WASH facilities at schools.
  • Supplies for furnishing schools with school-in-a-box, including culturally-appropriate basic educational materials for students and teachers, sports kits, and library kits.

Child Protection

  • Establish child-friendly spaces where children, including adolescents, can feel safe and play.
  • Provide psycho-social support to affected children in order to recover from the long-term effects of post-disaster trauma.
  • Distribute recreational kits and library kits to children.
  • Identify and register unaccompanied/separated children and provide family-based interim cares, and work with communities and parents to prevent additional family separation during forced displacement.
  • Ensure community based and school-based Mine Risk Education interventions for children, families and communities, including through home visits to provide humanitarian assistance to landmine and unexploded ordnances victims and survivors.