The agency is also calling on the international community for an increase in aid, warning that heavy rains are expected to continue for many more weeks.
The flooding has resulted in the deaths of more than 200 people. A further 300,000 have been left homeless and are currently being housed in temporary shelters.
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“These are the worst floods to hit Colombia in 60 years. They are destroying thousands of homes and crops, roads and public buildings in areas of the country that were already desperately poor,” said Guillermo Toro, Oxfam Program Manager in Colombia. “There is an urgent need for clean drinking water and toilets to avert a public health catastrophe, as well as basic food items and temporary shelter for those who have lost their homes.
“Without a large scale international aid effort these floods will continue to destroy the homes and livelihoods of the most poor and vulnerable in the country. The international aid response has been inadequate. The government has estimated that the cost of the response will be US$5billion, yet so far rich countries have only given US$10.5 millionto the aid effort,” Toro said.
Oxfam has sent response teams to three of the worst affected regions — Córdoba, Sucre and Chocó in the north of the country — to deliver clean water and safe sanitation. Teams are assessing where there is most need and aims to scale up its programs in the coming weeks.
The Colombian government has declared a state of emergency in order to deal with the situation.
The flooding is being blamed on the La Niña meteorological phenomenon. La Niña causes a fall in the water temperature of the Pacific Ocean, sparking changing weather patterns characterized by heavy winds and strong rains.
Colombia Floods Facts
• 1,959, 928 people affected
• 60 per cent of the territory of the country has been affected
• 71 per cent of the affected population live in rural areas and areas on the peripheries of cities where there was already a huge lack of basic services before the floods.
• Schools have been closed, cattle have died, health centres have closed, electricity and other public services have been suspended, houses and roads have been destroyed, new cases of malaria and dengue fever have been identified, and 680,000 hectare of crops have been destroyed.
• Since the beginning of December there has been a 300 per cent increase in the water levels of rivers and lakes.