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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 February, 2004, 00:30 GMT
UN warns of huge Colombia crisis
Many thousands have fled Colombia to neighbouring countries
A senior UN official has said Colombia is facing the world's worst humanitarian crisis outside Africa.

The Assistant UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Kamel Morjane, said the situation was only worse in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.

Between two and three million people have been forced from their homes in Colombia's 39-year civil war.

The UN official urged the international community not to ignore the crisis and pledged to press donors for more aid.

"Internally displaced people in Colombia are one of, if not the worst humanitarian crisis in the western hemisphere," Mr Morjane said after a trip to Colombia and Ecuador.

"I felt I was in one of the most impoverished African countries, it was shocking to see the conditions they live in," Agence France Presse news agency quoted him as saying.

The UNHCR official said the crisis was a regional and an international problem.

Thousands of Colombians have fled to neighbouring countries or sought refuge in the United States and Europe to escape the violence.

Crisis spotlight

The UNHCR hopes to find ways to focus world attention on the plight of the displaced and refugees.

"The internally displaced people are invisible in this crisis, not only internationally but even in Bogota," Mr Morjane was quoted as saying by Associated Press news agency.

The humanitarian crisis has been obscured by the focus on drug trafficking or the conflict between the Colombian government and rebel groups, the UN official reportedly claimed.

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