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Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Eric Schwartzvisits with two dental hygienists who often see more than 100 patients a day. (PRM photo)

(Washington, D.C.) May 6, 2011 — Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) Eric Schwartz released a letter yesterday reflecting on a recent visit he made to Ecuador and Colombia. 

Mr. Schwartz said he went to "review the ongoing humanitarian challenges confronting displaced Colombians – refugees in Ecuador and internally displaced people in Colombia. Decades of conflict in Colombia have resulted in the displacement of millions of people from their homes – to urban centers, small towns and villages, and in some cases across international borders. During the trip, the work of PRM’s partners focused my attention on the importance of an integrated approach to resolving protracted humanitarian situations, and of seizing opportunities to develop local capacity for effective response."

He also notes that "Women-headed households are particularly vulnerable. During my visit to the town of Lago Agrio, near the Colombian border, I visited with one young mother of eight children. In her spare but tidy household, boards were nailed across the threshold to keep the youngest children from wandering outside, and the laundry she takes in every day hangs to dry from the security grates on the home’s windows and on lines strung across the yard. She keeps the youngest children home from school because she cannot pay to transport them safely to the nearest elementary school. Fortunately, the dedicated UNHCR team in Lago Agrio is working with an equally impressive group of local authority representatives to improve access to schools for refugee and local families so that situations such as this can become less common in the region."

Please click here to read the full text of Mr. Schwartz's letter, and to view photos from the trip.

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