EL ESPECTADOR, February 3, 2022


(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The Colombian Food Banks Association insists that it’s necessary to take on the hunger problem in this country in an urgent manner. Nearly 16 million Colombians are living on two meals a day or fewer than that, they pointed out.

The Food Banks Association spoke out this week after a controversy that began with a report published by the United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture (FAO) last January 27, where Colombia was included among the 20 countries at risk of experiencing acute hunger in 2022.

According to the report, Colombia was part of those “critical points for hunger” in Latin America and the Caribbean, because of political instability, the economic challenges, the impact of the regional migration crisis, and also the effects of the new internal displacements. It’s estimated that for this year, nearly 7.3 million Colombians will need food assistance, and the Organization suggested some preventive and emergency actions.

In light of the report, the government of Colombia sent a diplomatic note expressing its dissatisfaction with the data, and requesting the withdrawal of Colombia from the map of countries with food insecurity, arguing that malnutrition statistics have been reduced by 39.1% between 2018 and 2020, and that we were not facing a crisis like those of the other countries listed on the map.

In response, the Director of FAO, Alan Bojanic, expressed regret and explained that the purpose of the report was to “call attention to acute food insecurity in some populations in this country,” but stating that it would be unfair not to recognize the government’s efforts to provide food security.

However, there are populations in this country that are facing severe hunger. That was also confirmed this week in a communication by the Food Banks Association of Colombia (ABACO). They insisted that the hunger situation in Colombia “is definitely critical.”

Nearly 21 million Colombians are in poverty, with an average income of 331,000 pesos per month (roughly USD $83.46). “which is not enough for a basic food budget,” they say. Likewise, 15.9 million Colombians eat two meals a day or less than that, while 5 million Colombians are suffering from malnutrition, or suffered from it in the past and are now suffering its medical effects.

“Monetary poverty is the principal cause of food insecurity, understood as the difficulty in regularly obtaining enough safe and nutritious food to permit adequate growth and development,” they explain.

There are other data that support this. According to a survey by Social Pulse, also published by DANE[1], before the pandemic, 88.9% of Colombian families were able to eat three meals a day. By December 2021, this figure had been reduced to 69.1%, which means that in December 2021, 14,399,065 people were eating only twice a day, 1,445,065 people were eating only once a day, and 154,828 people were eating less often than once a day.

For its part, the National Survey of Nutritional Situations –ENSIN 2015 – reports that 54.2 % of the population of Colombia is living with food insecurity, and that 10.8% of children under the age of 5 in Colombia have chronic malnutrition. This means that in this country, we have more than 500,000 children under the age of 5 with an irreversible medical condition that impedes their adequate growth and development.

“It’s not the time to look for guilty parties, and we lament this situation of food insecurity that exists in Colombia. It’s important to put the issue on the table, understand its dimensions and join in working together for comprehensive solutions,” stated Juan Carlos Buitrago, Executive Director of ABACO. “From the network of food banks in Colombia, we call upon the whole country to join an alliance against hunger in Colombia, so that all of the organizations work toward a higher goal, in which we put together all of our abilities, resources, and our disposition to work as a team to advance in our purpose of eradicating hunger and malnutrition,” he added.

[1] Colombia’s National Administrative of Statistics.

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