Close sites icon close
Search form

Search for the country site.

Country profile

Country website

AHC for Operations winds up Ecuador/Colombia mission

Briefing notes

AHC for Operations winds up Ecuador/Colombia mission

9 June 2006

Concluding a four-day mission to Ecuador, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Operations Judy Cheng-Hopkins has called for more international attention to be paid to the humanitarian impact of the Colombian conflict on the whole region.

Our latest statistics released today show that with more than 2 million internally displaced people, Colombia is now the country with the largest population of uprooted people of concern to UNHCR in the world. And, it's not only Colombia, but the entire region that's affected - as well as the quarter of a million Colombians in need of protection in Ecuador, there are also tens of thousands more Colombians of concern to UNHCR in other countries in the region, such as Venezuela, Panama and Costa Rica.

These numbers, which continue to rise, make the Colombian situation not only the largest UNHCR operation in the Americas but also one of the world's biggest and most forgotten humanitarian tragedies.

Cheng-Hopkins arrived in Ecuador on Tuesday for meetings with high-ranking officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office of Refugee Affairs. She said she shared the government s concerns that the number of people fleeing the conflict in Colombia continues to grow on a monthly basis and called on the international community to pay more attention to what has become an invisible humanitarian tragedy. She said more solidarity should be shown with countries like Ecuador which are bearing the brunt of the crisis. Cheng-Hopkins also thanked the government for its generosity and flexibility in dealing with the Colombians of concern to UNHCR in Ecuador.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Cheng-Hopkins visited UNHCR's two field offices in Ecuador - Lago Agrio and Ibarra - both located in the north of the country near the Colombian border. She was especially worried about the difficulty of reaching out to a large population of concern scattered over a wide in difficult and remote terrain. Her greatest concern was the many women and children in need of protection.

Cheng-Hopkins is expected to cross the border into Colombia today (Friday) on her way to the city of Pasto in the department of Nariño, which has seen a marked increase in violence and forced displacement since the start of the year. In Colombia, she is scheduled to visit UNHCR's projects for displaced people in the cities of Barranquilla and Cartagena. About half of Colombia's internally displaced live in urban centres - many of them in poor suburbs that are little more than shantytowns. Cheng-Hopkins is scheduled to meet government officials in Bogota, Colombia's capital.