The study focused on displaced persons who fled their homes between four months ago and four years ago in three northern provinces of Colombia: Antioquia, Sucre and Bolivar. The provinces have all experienced heavy displacement over the past year due to the increase in violence by armed groups in the region.
The 19-page report found that families headed by single mothers are particularly vulnerable, consuming only 1755 calories per day. Families living in urban areas are consuming less–1694 calories–due to the high costs of food, water, gas, and transportation in the city.
There is an alarming drop in the socio-economic status of families following displacement: women keep only 12 per cent of their animal husbandry assets (previously their principal economic activity), and families receive only about 30 per cent of the income they had before displacement, while accumulating more debt.
The survey focused on areas where WFP is working and distinguished between families displaced between: 1) four months and 12 months; 2) between 12 and 24 months; 3) between two and four years; and 4) more than four years.
The study found that hunger becomes more chronic between the fourth and 24th month after the displaced are cut off from the 3-month humanitarian assistance package while the costs of water, fuel, and food increase. The data shows that displaced families begin to earn more money after 24 months. These families come out of the vicious circle of asset depletion, indebtedness, reduced food consumption and consumption of cheaper foods.
The study involved personal interviews with 76 displaced families, representing more than 530 displaced persons. The participants were interviewed about their economic status before and after displacement based on their resources, income, debt and food intake.
“Many outsiders and Colombians find it difficult to believe that there is hunger in Colombia, a country with a large middle class,” said Els Kocken, WFP Colombia Country Director. “It takes years for the displaced to get back on their feet and, meanwhile, they are going hungry. I saw newly arrived indigenous families in Uraba eating nothing but banana rejects donated by the private sector. The hosting community gave the displaced land to cultivate, but it takes tools, seeds, energy and time – months – to see enough food produced for an entire displaced family.”
WFP, which assists in resettling displaced families and providing food for adults, pre-school and school children, currently only has 57 per cent of the required funding for its two-year food aid support program in Colombia.
“The government and humanitarian aid agencies need more data on the health, housing, employment and schooling conditions of the displaced,” said Kocken. “In addition to coordination, this requires visiting the displaced, and reporting on their condition in order to respond to their needs.”