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Displacement & Poverty
Colombia is going through the second largest humanitarian crisis in violence-related displacement in the world, after Congo, being known as the worst in the West according to the UN. Since 1985, forced displacement has been affecting the country. Today several studies confirm the existence in our country of over 3 million civilians, mostly women and children, who have been forced to flee their homes because of armed conflict or persecution . In the year 2010 only, 280,041 people were displaced, according to the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES). The figures are not encouraging, nor do they indicate a decreasing rate; on the contrary, they only change over the years.
Forced displacement significantly harms the family income and leads to high rates of poverty. Single women are heads of household in about 43% of the families of internally displaced people, and the situation is particularly precarious for teenagers, regarding whom the forced recruitment of children by armed groups outside the law in several regions has been denounced .
Likewise, inequality in income distribution negatively affects human development. In the past 14 years, the inequality rate has increased in the country, going from 0,544 to 0,563.Thus, it is estimated that the cumulative income of 80% of the population is less than the total income of 10% of the world's richest people.
Similarly, the report of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) indicates that one in ten poor in Latin America is Colombian, and that almost every 8 of the indigents are also Colombian: a reality that involves different policies in order to reduce the markedly existing gaps, as well as linking the different actors and efforts for their transformation.
"The idea of equality implies addressing social vulnerability; we believe that a macro-economy that protects people from external volatility plays a key role."(ECLAC 2010)
According to the World Bank, the scenario in Colombia today is as follows: a 45.5% poverty rate equivalent to 19 million 900 thousand Colombians and 16.4% of the population in extreme poverty is equivalent to 7 million 200 thousand Colombians. This 61. 9% is considered as being mostly comprised of children who are torn between malnutrition, lack of opportunities and lack of access to different services. Facing the percentages presented by ECLAC in 2007, one can observe a 7.3% increase in these indicators, which is very worrying for our country.
The United Nations Program for Development (UNDP) defines “poor” as someone living in a family that survives with less than two minimum wages, and “indigent” as someone who cannot sustain basic daily calorie needs. According to this concept, our country has a big challenge: reducing the number of poor to 28% and indigency to 9%.
In 2009, 183 million people lived in poverty in Latin America –one third of the inhabitants of the region—, of which 74 million were in conditions of extreme poverty (ECLAC, 2010). This means that between 2008 and 2009 three million people fell into extreme poverty because of the global economic crisis, rising unemployment, informality and insufficient social protection mechanisms.
In Colombia, each of the three geographical areas in which the foundation develops its programs (Barranquilla-Atlántico, Quibdó-Chocó, and Soacha-Cundinamarca) presents the same situation: families made up on average by 6 displaced people arriving at a capital city, or as is the case of Altos de Cazucá (Soacha), from the neighboring towns to swell the slums. In many of these areas there are few alternatives for the livelihood of families, giving place to the loss of nutritional quality and increase of chronic malnutrition of its members.
The adult population is at a high level of illiteracy, and is engaged in informal activities such as street vending or resorts to begging or crime to ensure the survival of the family. Because of the economic condition of their homes, boys and girls are forced to work in the streets helping their parents, thus having no access to education, which implies a reduction of the time they spend in educational activities or in the worst case, failure to attend school.
In addition to this, the high levels of abuse and maltreatment, domestically as well as among neighbors due to overcrowding and the ways in which the dwellings are used, the upheaval of displacement and the difficulties for the survival of the population generate a vicious cycle of violence.
The population of Quibdó (Chocó) is of African descent in more than 90%, and they live in poor economic and social conditions. In the past five years about 12 thousand people from the municipalities close to Quibdó such as Bojayá, Tanandó, Murindó and the banks of the Baudó River, among others, have been displaced by violence, since this is an area of conflict of armed groups operating outside the law.
In general, families are made up of young couples with 4 or 5 small children, with a marked increase of women who are heads of household. About 60% of the adult population works in street vending, as security guards, doing household chores and other as activities that do not generate decent income levels.
Access to public utilities is deficient in the areas of intervention of the Foundation (Soacha, Quibdó and Barranquilla), because the lands have been occupied by their inhabitants and not yet properly legalized, which prevents the State from providing coverage of the service. Thus, the lack of an aqueduct is one of the major limitations, as in the area of Montebello in Quibdó and Altos de Cazucá in Soacha  .
With the latest national and local governments there has been an increase in public investment and policy-making for these populations. However, their reality is still so complex that it demands a greater and more continuous commitment from all actors in society to improve the quality of life of people as well as their social inclusion.
 “Los Desplazados Internos.” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 2007.
 Situation in Colombia - General Overview. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 2011.
 Source: Municipality of Soacha.