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What are the current issues in Colombia

Colombia is the third most populated country in Latin America, with an estimated population of 48.3 million, of which 13 million are living in poverty. Although Colombia is classified as an upper middle income country, inequality levels are high with a Gini coefficient of 0.53.

The internal conflict in Colombia for over fifty years has affected more than six million victims. In 2012, the Government of Colombia and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) agreed to a peace process, and are currently advancing on an array of complex issues which are central to resolving the conflict. Recently there has been a decrease in forced displacements, however other forms of violence and intimidation have increased, making WFP’s capacity to respond and provide effective and coordinated humanitarian assistance a high priority.

Displacement and violence cause food insecurity, loss of livelihoods, changes in family structures, as well as tensions within households and communities.

The geography of the conflict has disproportionally affected women, Afro-Colombians, and indigenous people. Approximately 60 percent of IDPs are women and children. In 2014 it was estimated that 5.9 million internally displaced people and 262,000 confined people are still in need of humanitarian assistance. Many of these people are still in need of humanitarian assistance. Colombia has the second highest number of internally displaced people (IDP) in the world, after Syria. Due to conflict and historical marginalization, parts of the country still remain beyond the reach of the state, are marked by insecurity and indiscriminate violence, and are excluded from the government’s considerable social investments.

While the economy grew at an annual average of 4.4 percent from 2007 to 2012, the benefits of economic growth are unequally distributed. Large parts of the country have not benefited from the advances or the government’s social investments due to weak institutional presences. Colombia’s status as a steadily growing middle-income country masks severe inequities within two Colombias: one with dynamic urban centers, and the other; poor, rural, institutionally weak, and conflict-affected.

Approximately 43 percent of Colombians consider themselves food insecure, due to lack of access to basic staples and nutritious foods. Almost 24 percent of displaced children are chronically malnourished compared to the national average of 12 percent. In indigenous communities in the Pacific Coast, almost 90 percent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition. More than 60% of rural households live without assets, and many of them without sufficient access to basic services (water, sanitation and houses).

While helping the most vulnerable to secure access to quality food, WFP supports the creation of an environment of peace and reconciliation. WFP emphasizes confidence-building approaches that strengthen the resilience of affected communities and the capacities of local authorities; all with the aim of helping Colombians achieve a lasting and sustainable peace.

What the World Food Programme is doing in Colombia

In 2015 WFP began implementing the new Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO), reaching 660,000 conflict-affected people over a three year period, for a total cost of US$61 million.

WFP supports the Government’s peace building priority and is part of UN strategies, to meet the following objectives:

Improve the food consumption and dietary diversity of Internally Displaced People (IDPs), returnees, and the most vulnerable victims and Colombians affected by the conflict.
Rebuild the livelihoods of IDPs and returnees, with a focus on community resilience and the empowerment of women and ethnic groups.

WFP engages in relief activities with partners to ensure the immediate food needs of victims of the conflict are met. WFP is expanding its voucher transfer modality to meet urgent relief needs, through the distribution of electronic vouchers that can be redeemed in shops and supermarkets. This contributes to rebuilding local economies, improves nutritional status and gives people choices in their purchases.

In coordination with partners, WFP assists returnees, people in the process of resettlement/reintegration, Afro-Colombian and indigenous groups affected by conflict, and school children at risk of recruitment through recovery activities.

There is a strong commitment from WFP to integrate gender and protection in all its activities. This requires designing and conducting gender and protection assessments for all food assistance activities. Another WFP focus is on resilience building of marginalized communities, with priority given to indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities affected by conflict, marginalization and natural disasters.

WFP will promote small farmers, with an emphasis on women producers, by strengthening producer associations and value chains, thus helping to diversify livelihoods. WFP’s purchasing power promotez the production of nutritious foods by small-holder farmers, and linking this production to WFP activities and government programmes, for example school feeding.

WFP Complements Government Efforts

WFP in Colombia complements Government programmes and supports the development of efficient, sustainable and scalable food-assistance models. The Government is taking important steps toward broader, more inclusive and equitable socio-economic development, particularly in rural areas.

Upon request of Government entities, WFP helps strengthen capacities at national and local level, with the aim of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of social programmes. Complementing national priorities, WFP supports the objective of improving the food and nutrition security of the most vulnerable Colombians, within the framework of national social programmes actions.

WFP’s role in capacity development centers on coordination, facilitation and oversight. An important WFP contribution is the development and testing of different implementation arrangements to inform government decisions and to ensure the sustainability of social programmes. As part of testing new models WFP promotes food assistance tools such as conditioned food and voucher transfers and local purchases.

Featured Colombia publications

  • Colombia: WFP Country Brief (PDF, 397 KB)

    A Country Brief provides the latest snapshot of the country strategy, operations, operational highlights (achievements and issues/challenges), partnerships and country background.

Looking for more publications on Colombia? Visit the Colombia publications archive.