Food Coalition

Revised humanitarian response Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) - Colombia

The most vulnerable and food-insecure populations in Colombia mainly live in rural areas, including women, indigenous peoples, afro-descendant communities, youth and refugees/migrants from Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), due to the challenges they face linked to prolonged armed conflict and environmental degradation.

As the COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly spreading across Colombia strict but essential health-related containment measures – e.g. total lockdown, closing of borders and schools, shutdown of economic activities – have been implemented since the end of March. A spike in confirmed cases, particularly in some of the main urban areas, at the end of April forced the Government to reinstate restrictions in the most affected cities.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and related containment measures have generally impacted the food supply chain.

While crop production has not been significantly affected by the containment measures, the livestock sector has been more affected. Overall, the challenges linked to marketing coupled with the slowdown of economic activities have reduced food access in the country.

During a rapid needs assessment carried out by the Interagency Group on Mixed Migration Flows (April 2020), Venezuelan households indicated food as their most immediate need in the context of COVID-19 (95 percent), housing (53 percent), employment (45 percent) and healthcare (26 percent). In addition, over half reported to having difficulties with complying with quarantine measures, mainly due to the need to generate income to cover basic needs (43 percent) or access food (36 percent).

Once urgent and essential COVID-19 preventive measures were put in place, the number of migrant households that reported income generation dropped by 78 percent and only 15 percent of households reported consuming three meals a day, compared with 56 percent prior to the pandemic. As most Venezuelan migrants in Colombia depend on informal work, thousands of them have had to return to Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) due to loss of income linked to essential COVID-19-related restrictions on movement.

Colombia’s cross-border restrictions with Brazil and Peru due to the COVID-19 situation, which is particularly severe in the department of Amazonas, have impacted logistics and supply of food and agricultural inputs, affecting food production and marketing in the area.

In a survey involving 1 400 producers, organizations and traders carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the  United Nations ([FAO], April 2020) in 20 departments, 87 percent of small-scale producers reported to have been affected by COVID-19 restrictions, due to the increase in the prices of agricultural inputs, with critical cases in Boyacá, Córdoba and Tolima.

A decrease in crop production is also expected in certain regions due to drought and crop pests. Furthermore, the transportation of produce has been affected, in the country, with 92 percent of retailers reporting to have been impacted.

The increase of food prices (avocado, eggs, onion, peas, rice, etc.) and households’ reduced purchasing power has limited their access to food, which may lead to increased malnutrition. A decrease in the number of customers and quantity bought has been reported by more than half of the food traders interviewed by FAO in July while unusual requests to buy on credit have increased dramatically. As a result, the capacity of food market actors to operate is severely compromised and could lead to the shutdown of markets in the three coming months. According to the National Association of Farmers, rural producers have limited access to agricultural inputs, as well as protection and biosecurity elements to comply with the protocols, which in turn generates greater difficulties in marketing their products. An increase in prices of animal feed was recorded by FAO. Given the impossibility of buying key inputs, the most vulnerable families are choosing to consume their animals or sell them at a very low price to cover basic needs. This has translated into the loss of households’ productive assets.

The livelihoods of artisanal fishers in the Pacific coast region have been affected due to a decrease in the demand for fish due to the closure of commercial establishments, travel restrictions (transporting fish to markets) and lack of income to purchase fuel for transport.

Extreme weather events have exacerbated the situation of the most vulnerable communities during the pandemic, leading to the loss of crops and animals, as well as affecting production cycles. Floods in Barbacoas (Nariño) in April, affected 1 450 families, and in the coastal area of San Juan (Chocó) in May, the agricultural livelihoods of around 560 people were totally or partially destroyed.

In addition, in the department of La Guajira, COVID-19 broke out during severe drought that has lasted two years,triggering increased levels of malnutrition and food insecurity.

Priority Areas of work: Global Humanitarian Response Plan
SDG: 1. No Poverty, 2. Zero Hunger, 5. Gender Equality, 16. Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Level: Country
Country: Colombia
Budget: USD 27.1 million

Action Sheet:  Col_cb0414en.pdf

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