Colombia sees a modest improvement in food security but half of the population remains exposed to climatic and economic risks

ByWorld Food Programme

Colombia sees a modest improvement in food security but half of the population remains exposed to climatic and economic risks

The results of the latest food security assessment by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Colombia show a 5 percent reduction in food insecurity, with 13 million people facing moderate or severe food insecurity – down from 15 million the previous year.

Despite progress in collective actions to address food insecurity in the country, the Food Security Assessment among the Colombian Population – carried out in late 2023 – also reveals that half of Colombian households are in a situation of marginal food security and are at risk of sliding into a more severe situation as a result of external shocks. These include the impact of El Niño and La Niña which bring variations in river flows and forest fire risk, and the economic slowdown which causes food price instability which can affect access to food, especially for the poorest.

Although the household capacity to purchase food has improved since the previous assessment in 2022, many families are forced to spend their savings, buy on credit, or cut on health expenditures to be able to put food on their tables. 43 percent of the households surveyed reported difficulties in accessing food in the last six months.

WFP’s assessment shows that only one in three Colombians have acceptable levels of food consumption, while slightly more than half of the population often resort to consuming less preferred foods, eating less, and reducing the number of meals per day. In some extreme cases, adults forfeit their portions so that children can eat – and some even go days without eating.

The armed conflict continues to be a major driver of food insecurity in Colombia, with 11 percent of surveyed households reporting having been affected by a violent event in the last six months, with displacement and personal injury reported in most cases.

“The assessment highlights problems with access to food, lack of important micronutrients, high economic vulnerability, and the use of coping mechanisms such as reducing the size and frequency of meals. We must address the underlying drivers that continue to affect food security in Colombia, by strengthening food systems to boost the resilience and decrease the vulnerability of the population,” said Carlo Scaramella, WFP’s Country Director in Colombia.

The assessment notes that the highest level of food insecurity persists in La Guajira (59 percent). The department with the lowest rate is San Andres and Providencia, in the Caribbean (3 percent). Rural areas are more food insecure (31 percent) than urban areas (24 percent) due to precarious incomes and the greater impact of extreme weather events. However, the total number of food-insecure people is still higher in urban areas, as the population is concentrated in cities. In the case of the district of Bogota, one million people are food insecure, representing 13 percent of the population of the capital.

In response to this situation, WFP works hand in hand with institutions and communities to help address hunger and poverty, through development programs that provide opportunities for the most vulnerable communities to build their livelihoods. Training, seed funding, technical assistance, and socio-entrepreneurial support are some of the initiatives that WFP has been rolling out in this regard.