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New Campaign Aims to Help Hundreds of Thousands of Displaced in Colombia


The UN refugee agency and 10 other partners are launching a nationwide campaign to help the victims of forced displacement in Colombia. The campaign will use the Internet to make the public aware of the displacement crisis and to provide practical information on how it can help those who have been forced to flee their homes because of conflict. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.

The UN refugee agency notes the internal displacement crisis in Colombia is one of the largest and oldest in the world. And, for many people, there is no end in sight.

FARC and other rebel groups have been trying to unseat the government in Colombia for four decades. The conflict goes on and so does the displacement.

Some sources say as many as three million people have been forced to flee their homes. Many have been displaced several times. Every year, the UNHCR reports another quarter of a million people are uprooted.

Spokeswoman, Jennifer Pagonis says more than half of all displaced people live below the poverty line. She says they often have difficulty finding a new home and a reliable source of income. Without these, displaced people are unable to achieve long-term security and stability.

Despite their huge numbers, she says many people in the capital, Bogota and other cities are not even aware of the displaced despite their huge numbers and miserable conditions of existence.

This, she explains, is why the Internet campaign is so important. "People who also are living in big cities do not know that there are large numbers of displaced people living on the fringes under some very precarious circumstances. So, that is a way of bringing this home to people who may well be in a position to help if they knew actually what the situation really was. So, it gives them a chance to properly communicate with displaced people as well who have got access to the Internet and a part, certainly of the organizations that are trying to help them," she said.

Pagonis says the campaign hopes to reach a wide Internet audience, who will be interested in taking an active role in addressing this crisis. She says the campaign aims to get the public and private sectors to join in efforts to help. It hopes to encourage corporate leaders and entrepreneurs to take an active role in helping the displaced.

She says the site offers examples of successful local initiatives and testimonies from displaced on what they have done to ease their plight. She says the site has been designed to encourage visitors to participate in the project by posting their own ideas and suggestions of what works best.

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