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Colombia: displaced persons – the poorest of the poor

13-12-2007 News Release 07/131

Bogotá (ICRC) – The millions of people displaced by the armed conflict are among the poorest in Colombia, according to a study by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the World Food Programme (WFP) presented in Bogotá on 13 December.

According to the study, which covers eight cities, children in 25% to 52% of displaced households eat fewer than three meals a day because their families do not have enough money to buy food.

The study analyses the living conditions of displaced persons and the action being taken to help them in the cities of Barranquilla, Bogotá, Cartagena, Florencia, Medellín, Santa Marta, Sincelejo and Villavicencio, which are among the main destinations for people fleeing their homes. The majority of displaced households suffer from a greater degree of structural poverty than do residential households. Many are living in extreme poverty (less than $53 per month per person), especially in Medellín, Florencia, Barranquilla, Cartagena and Villavicencio.

Many of those families that have been displaced for less than a year receive food, hygiene articles and other basic necessities from the government and other organizations. In some cities, such as Bogotá and Medellín, mechanisms have been set up to supplement the national food subsidy, but many households do not even receive the subsidy itself.

Although efforts are being made to assist displaced families with primary – and especially secondary – schooling, it is proving difficult to obtain school places for all children who need them. In addition, many heads of displaced households have only a basic level of education, making it difficult for these families to increase their incomes in an urban environment.

The main measures that need to be taken to improve the living conditions of displaced families include providing them with access to training/income generating programmes, obtaining housing subsidies, ra ising the level of education of heads of household and integrating these families into the health system. All of this has to take account of the differences in need according to gender and ethnic background, together with the requirements for psycho-social services.

The ICRC and the WFP hope that the recommendations of the report will enable the authorities and organizations working to help displaced persons to elaborate joint strategies and activities, thereby improving the assistance provided from the emergency phase to the socio-economic stabilization of displaced populations.

  For further information, please contact:
  Yves Heller, ICRC Bogotá, tel : +57 1 313 86 30 or +57 311 4 91 07 89
  Marçal Izard, ICRC Geneva, tel : +41 22 730 2458 or +41 79 217 3224
  David Parra, WFP Bogotá, tel : +57 1 346 11 or +57 311 8 47 94 67
  Alejandro Chicheri, WFP Latin America and the Caribbean, tel : +507 317 3955 or +507 66 74 26 01