Of the 1,383,000 indigenous people in Colombia, at least 55,000 are facing food shortages, local media reported Sunday.
According to Gabriel Muyuy Jacanamejoy, the director of the Presidential Program for Indigenous Affairs, the malnutrition is primarily affecting children.
At least 50 children died this year of diseases related to malnutrition, Muyuy stated.
The official added that no official figures were available, because the majority of the children who died were buried in their territorities without being reported to the authorities.
According to Muyuy the “food crisis” the indigenous people are going through is largely due to the armed conflict.
A lot of the lands in the indigenous areas are exhausted, but violence of the armed conflict, including the fear of land mines, prevents them from going hunting or fishing.
Other causes of the food crisis Muyuy stated are badly formulated food programs, the presence of illicit crops in indigenous areas and erradication caused by spraying.
The director called for an emergency plan and a gathering with the National Family Welfare System to adress the issue of the food crisis.
According to Bertha Forero, director of Nutrition Family Welfare malnutrition is the result of many causes, some inherent to the individual and others to the environment, such as a lack of access to healthcare, drinking water and education. In the case of indigenous people the traditional medicine they practise also has to be taken into account, she added.
According to its director the Nutrition Family Welfare currently has 34 nutritional rehabilitation programs in 17 departments, who operate with people from the community who are trained to respond directly to the natives.
Hunger and malnutrition mostly occurs in areas far from urban centers, such as the western departments of Choco and Risaralda, the departments of Cassanare, Guainia and Vichada in the east, as well as the department of La Guajira in the north of Colombia.