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Colombia/Ecuador: IOM and WFP join forces to help communities on the northern border

IOM and the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) yesterday signed a long-term cooperation agreement, through the year 2010, to carry out projects along Ecuador's northern border region, with a focus on the Federation of Awa Indigenous Communities of Ecuador (FECAE).

The AWA, or "man", are an indigenous Ecuadorian community that live isolated from the modern world and until now remain relatively unknown. They live in the Ecuadorian highlands and in the northern border coastal area with Colombia. Historically, they have defended their identity and today struggle to protect their territory from lumber companies. Some of the AWA came from Colombia, where some 14,000 are still living. In 1985 the government of Ecuador granted citizenship to the AWA.

WFP will use funding from agreements with the private sector, such as GATORADE, and FECAE, to work with IOM on infrastructure projects along the northern border. For its part, IOM will provide technical support for the follow-up of the projects and for an information database to assist in the implementation of the projects. WFP will provide technical and operational experience and will manage the financial resources.

The first projects to get underway under the IOM-WFP agreement are:

- Rehabilitation of three schools in San Lorenzo, Esmeraldas Province

- Health education materials for the health centre in Lita, Imbabura Province.

- Family and Community Health System: the rehabilitation of three health posts and the construction of 10 additional posts.

Since 2001 IOM has been carrying out social and productive infrastructure projects in communities along the northern border with funds from USAID and in coordination with Ecuadorian government through its Northern Development Unit (UDENOR). The aim of this IOM programme is to improve the health of residents and Colombians who have crossed into Ecuador and to promote the development of the communities.

There are 13,663 Colombian refugees and 44,303 who have applied for asylum in Ecuador. Most of them live in extremely vulnerable conditions. Some 46 per cent in the northern border region, where IOM programmes are strengthening the communities.

So far, some 218 infrastructure projects benefiting more than 371,342 persons have been built providing basic services, such as potable water, sanitation systems, and roads to improve transportation.

For more information contact IOM Ecuador, Ana Guzman, Tel: (593-2)-225-3948; Email: