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The threat of acute hunger in Colombia is not only for the pandemic

It is not a report, but two, indicating that Colombia is included in the world critical hunger hotspots, as besides the one recently produced by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (“Hunger Hotspots FAO-WFP early warnings on acute food insecurity”), in August of 2021, the World Food Program (WFP) and FAO jointly published the Hunger Hotspots report (“Hunger Hotspots FAO-WFP early warnings on acute food insecurity.)”

 

The difference between the two documents is that the latter was not distributed as widely as the current document (perspective of February to May 2022), clearly showing that people with hunger

–which in both reports are the main concern– are of the least importance.

 

It seems that what is concerning for the Government is that others know we are on a list, map, or news that impacts the image of the country and not have to assume responsibility and the fact that in Colombia people with hunger are just  too many.

 

The evidence shown on both reports is overwhelming and highlights that the figures will increase due to multiple social determinants, most of which are related to inequalities in access to food, separable factors of a conflict which intensifies due to the increased Venezuelan migration and the pandemic, which is still not completely controlled.

 

In his book, Hunger to the world explained to my son, Swiss sociologist Jean Ziegler, UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food between 2000 and 2008, says: "The first function of live beings part of nature is to feed. Without food, creatures die […] The policy should be to ensure that all can relieve their hunger. Not allowing hunger means providing every individual with at least 2,700 calories on average a day. The hundreds of million people that die every year from acute undernourishment are due to unjust food distribution."

 

The fact that a country doesn’t have a food shortage does not guarantee access to the amount and quality required for the entire population, and support programs are not the guarantors of sufficient consumption to cover the needs of the more impoverished households. 

More poverty, greater hunger

Colombia began the pandemic with a deep gap in human rights guarantee to adequate nutrition, which is paradoxically is easily demonstrable with official data of the 2015 Colombian Nutritional Situation Survey (ENSIN, for its Spanish acronym).

The survey shows that 54 of every 100 households has nutritional and food insecurity, or that 1 of every 2 households has some degree of “food insecurity,” and of these almost 9 of every 10 households (86%) are in “severe food insecurity,” a percentage that must have grown during the pandemic.

The same official data confirms that the hunger issue and its causes are critical in more impoverished populations. There, increasing the micronutrient deficiencies is due not only to the deterioration of the quality of the household diet but to other factors that impact this situation, including the weakness of answers from the Government and the institutions, focused on food support programs to respond to the crisis, ignoring the failure of conventional food production and distribution systems, and is also an accomplice of food hoarding, which is the main cause of this great scale waste

The pandemic increased acute hunger

In December, the Colombian Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE, for its Spanish acronym) published the November Social Pulse Survey which measures the welfare perception of Colombians concerning several fields of interest. The document showed that that the percentage of households that have 3 meals a day is 68.8%, while 29.1% has two meals a day and 1.9% just one, meaning that in the country many households are living with hunger, signifying that 1.68 million new households did not have the minimum number of daily rations as a result of the pandemic.

Studies on the basic food basket indicate that there is a direct relationship between taking sufficient food home, household monetary income, and food prices.

In Colombia, having enough food in the basic food basket is not a possibility; for the same date, DANE published that inflation was 5.26%, so the greatest monthly contribution is the food group with 1.45%, and unemployment surpasses 11%.

Early warnings

This and other associated data with the enormous load of the migrant Venezuelan population and the effect of climate change are referenced in the Hunger Hotspots reports of2021 and 2022, which alert of the worst upcoming situations.

Although the Government has been acting upon certain aspects, it is necessary to take immediate actions concerning matters such as delays in implementing the Peace Agreement, which has provoked violence and new displacement which could increase due to the social discontent and possible economic issues of the current electoral campaigns.

The reaction of the Government towards the report is not surprising. However, what is deeply concerning is the response of FAO Colombia of backpedaling (and should do for both reports,) as the mission of these agencies is to “act as a neutral party where all countries are summoned to come to agreements and debate policies, and help developing countries [...] these functions make FAO the party par excellence for debates regarding agriculture and food security.”

FAO’s apology is that –incoherent and inconceivable due to its status– there were “mistakes,” and that the intention of the report was not to obtain a hunger map but to show there were critical points that needed to be documented and alerted.

The report details early warmings, with a robust methodology, making a rigorous analysis based on the evidence of structural and intermediate factors which determine the nutritional and food insecurity, a product of multi-dimensional statistics taken from official data, besides documents, and follow up and monitoring reports of the food insecurity and nutritional situation.

We are now responsible for not ignoring the suggestion in the Hunger Hotspotsreports as provided by other parties; the Government and the responsible institutions should include and implement, wherever possible, permanent, anticipatory, and emergency actions written in these documents, as has been demonstrated with traceability that the situation tends to get worse, which does not have responsible parties given the Government answer and the most important international cooperation entity on the subject in Colombia; therefore the academy and civil society must mobilize. So, people with hunger become a concern. 

 

Consejo Editorial