Colombia has suffered through a decades-long conflict between the government and anti-government insurgent groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The anti-government forces are heavily involved in drug trafficking.
Children are the hardest hit by the conflict and poverty in the country. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) runs school feeding programs to help the children of Colombia. David Parra, a WFP officer in Colombia, discusses these life-changing programs for children.
Since 2002, more than 1 million people have been added to the estimated 2.5 million already displaced in Colombia. The conflict, which has been ongoing for over 40 years, has led to an increase in individual displacement and to the expansion of the conflict itself, creating a complex pattern of old and new areas of expulsion and of reception.
Almost 80% of internally displaced people (IDPs) temporarily settle in shantytowns on the outskirts of cities. The tensions between the IDPs and the communities that receive them have been increasing, as the influx of IDPs puts a greater demand on the limited resources of the community. IDPs compete for low-skill jobs, mostly in the informal sector, which in turn lowers wages that are low to begin with, and leads to exploitation.
Approximately 27 million Colombians are poor, and 10 million (2.8 million of these IDPs) live below the extreme poverty line. According to a joint evaluation carried out in 2004 by WFP and the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC), monthly income for IDP households varies between 30 and 60 US dollars, which is equivalent to about 42% of the minimum national wage. Two thirds of IDPs live in substandard housing without access to basic sanitary services.
More than 48% of IDPs are children between five and 14-years-old, and it is estimated that a high percentage of the displaced population is under 18 years old. Indicators on school enrolment for displaced children are diverse. It is estimated that between 24% (UNICEF) and 59% (IOM) of all displaced children do not attend school or have not received proper education after their families were forced into displacement.
Of those that do attend, 60% drop out between the ages of six and seven, mainly for economic reasons. Thirty percent of displaced girls between the ages of 13 and 19 are already mothers or are pregnant, 56% have not completed elementary school, and 54% of displaced households are headed by women. These indicators lead to the conclusion that it is essential to provide humanitarian assistance to the displaced population in Colombia based on food assistance during the recovery phase.