A Colombian judge has jailed three individuals on charges they stole nearly $800,000 from a program to feed children and reduce the infant mortality rate in the country’s poorest state.
Of those jailed one is an employee of Colombia’s state-run welfare agency and the other two charged have links to a foundation accused of inflating contracts for services in La Guajira department on the Caribbean coast.
In total 11 people are suspected of scamming the agency out of more than $2 million since 2011.
An estimated 14,000 children have died from malnutrition, W radio reports.
La Guajira has the highest child malnourishment rate in Colombia, at 11 percent, and stories of children dying have proliferated recently as drought affecting the area has intensified. Low employment levels and dependence on state benefits has seen a drop in economic activities in the Guajira region.
The majority of affected are semi-nomadic Wayuu Indians who have lived on the peninsula for centuries. Some 21,900 settlements were identified in the peninsula, many of which fail to appear on official maps, highlighting the increasing need for a census to be undertaken in the region.