Colombia's Ombudsman Carlos Alfonso Negret convened an extraordinary meeting with high government officials Tuesday to analyze and propose solutions to ongoing humanitarian crises in the country’s Choco department.
The meeting comes as residents of the northern Colombian department have called for a civil strike on Wednesday in protest against rampant poverty and violence.
Organizers of Wednesday's strike have argued that the Colombian government hasn't met 2 percent of the commitments made to Choco residents following a strike held last year. These commitments include improvements in the areas of health, education, safety and transportation.
Dilon Martinez, spokesperson for the Civic Committee for the Salvation and Dignity of Choco, insisted that the government has largely ignored the needs of the people in the region.
“The overwhelming majority of our petitions that the government agreed to implement have not been implemented,” Martinez told Caracol.
Residents are also demanding greater security from the proliferation of right-wing paramilitary groups propping up in the area.
Choco, home to large Black and Indigenous communities, is currently the poorest department in Colombia. Some 65.9 percent of Choco’s population now live below the poverty line, according to Colombia Reports. Apart from economic and social crises, there's also the plight of those dislocated from their homes, kidnappings, death threats and homicides.
According to a 2014 report commissioned by Negret’s office, 36 percent of the children in Choco did not have a healthy size for their age and their weight. The report also found that child mortality was higher than the average rate in the rest of the country.
Nothing has changed since the report's release.
“We hope that all government ministry representatives participate in order to respond to the necessities of the people of Choco,” Negret said, according to Caracol.
“Tomorrow begins a civil strike to demand greater attention for the state.”