At least 294 children have died from malnutrition in the La Guajira province on Colombia’s Caribbean coast over the past eight years, President Juan Manuel Santos confirmed Monday.
Santos also indicated that the figure could climb as high to 425 after the government’s statistics agency’s estimation is taken into account.
Santos released these figures after it was reported that over 5,000 children had died over the same period, a claim Santos said was exaggerated.
Despite the lower revision of the statistic, the Ombudsman nonetheless stated that alarm was raised within the government in 2014 after 48 children died from malnutrition, an 84% increase over 2013.
Eleven have died thus far in 2015, raising awareness of the issue and spurring Santos to adopt measures to combat the malnutrition in La Guajira.
“One child for me is too many. One child who dies in Colombia because they don’t have access to proper nourishment for me is too many. We cannot allow even one child to die in Colombia to die from lack of proper nourishment.” expressed Santos.
While visiting Riohacha, the province’s capital, on Monday, Santos announced that a recently completed well powered by solar panels would begin to extract water and serve 1,000 families in 121 communities in La Guajira, developing the irrigation infrastructure and increasing food security.
Santos added that he expects the well to generate a measure of income for citizens of the region, possibly allowing the province to distribute water purifiers and livestock to help sustain families in need.
To better allocate the resources of the Colombian Institute of Familial Well-Being (ICBF), the entity charged with strengthening families and protecting minors, Santos delegated the director to conduct a census in La Guajira that will compile rigorous statistics on malnutrition in the province.
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