Refugees International (RI) called on President Juan Manuel Santos Tuesday to step up action to provide humanitarian assistance for the thousands of Colombians who are still suffering from the effects of severe flooding.
In the midst of Santos’ visit to the U.S. this week, the Washington based organization highlighted what it sees as the inadequacy of the Santos administration’s response to the disaster, four months after a State of Emergency was declared
In many parts of the country, thousands of people are still not getting basic assistance, including food, water, sanitation, emergency shelter, and health care
“The Colombian government is sitting on millions of dollars while thousands of vulnerable people are living in dire conditions,” said Alice Thomas, Climate Displacement Program manager for RI.
According to the organization, the Colombian government has raised more than enough money to help victims through Colombia Humanitaria, a purpose made fund raising mechanism launched in late December. However, as this system depends largely on a confusing array of actors both private and public, it has taken significant time to mobilize resources to where they are needed.
As a result, RI believes the response by the government has been ineffective, characterised by excessive bureaucracy and a lack of coordination.
Corruption is also hindering aid distribution with RI citing examples in the northern department of Corodba where 44,179 food packets and 26,844 personal hygiene kits lie unused in a warehouse because of government collusion with corrupt aid workers.
Furthermore, Colombia’s comptroller general issued a warning in March to the governor of Cordoba over significant irregularities in the allocation of resources meant to help mitigate the humanitarian disaster.
As the next rainy season draws closer, RI insists that these problems will be further exacerbated if Santos does not tame corruption and equip affected municipalities with additional resources and improved infrastructure.
Last week, the president took a step in this direction by requesting $3 billion from Congress to aid flood victims after the Constitutional Court rejected an extension of the emergency decree that allowed the government to use special funds for victims.