A Colombian congresswoman has criticized the Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) following a report by La Semana into indigenous children dying of starvation in central Colombia.
The La Semana report detailed how infant mortality rates in the area of Puerto Gaitan in the department of Meta are three times the national average, with 61 deaths per 1,000 children.
Angela Maria Robledo criticized the ICBF’s traditional food aid programs, on Tuesday telling La Semana, “this will not get better with milk and biscuits, like the ICBF is doing.”
Most of the children who die in the region are from Sikuani indigenous communities living in some of the nine reserves in the area.
According to Robledo, she wrote to the ICBF last year asking why they had not produced a report into malnutrition in indigenous communities.
She received a reply telling her the organization would only consider doing a general survey, not one focused on specific sectors.
Robledo claimed this inability to focus on the issue locally is partly why the ICBF is failing to tackle the problem.
She said, “the large contracts on a national level don’t let this type of problem be managed locally… In this way, local and departmental management is weakened and the development of special programs is prevented.”
The regional director of the ICBF for Meta, Marta Solano claimed the organization had different information to La Semana.
She added the ICBF needed to establish an “outpost [in the region] to verify the situation of malnutrition and infant mortality and find out if this is what is really happening.”
Last week, representatives from the indigenous communities presented a statement to Vice President Angelino Garzon last week, in which they blamed their plight on the region’s oil boom.
According to the community, the arrival of oil production has contaminated water supplies and ruined land used for hunting and cultivating crops.