By Irene Escudero |
Bogotá (EFE).- The World Food Program (WFP), which has reported a worrying worsening of the food security situation in Colombia, views with optimism that the new government of Gustavo Petro has as a priority fighting hunger.
“The fact that the Government has put the issue of hunger on the table as a priority issue, democracy, inclusion, dignity, respect, recognition, is fundamental,” the director for Colombia considers in an interview with EFE. from WFP, Carlo Scaramella.
This UN program launched last week an evaluation of the situation in Colombia that indicated that 30% of the population was in a situation of moderate or severe food insecurity.
15.5 million in difficulties
This “means that 15.5 million people in Colombia have difficulties accessing a healthy diet on a continuous basis and have to activate crisis management measures and strategies in the face of a situation of economic suffering,” explains the director.
If compared with the latest data, from 2015, “there is evidence of a deterioration in the country’s food and nutritional security situation,” says the Italian.
This is a “big problem” derived from the “inability to have economic access by the most vulnerable populations” and “insufficient resources in homes to ensure access to safer, healthier, and quality food,” he adds. .
“In general, the situation in Latin America has been difficult due to the covid,” Scaramella points out, noting that the pandemic has been added to the impact of inflation due to the war in Ukraine and that in Colombia they are added to other “structural factors such as conflict, violence or displacement” that affect the ability to “produce for self-consumption”.
And also to climate change and phenomena such as La Niña that have affected, with several months of intense rains, the north of the country, which is the one that experiences the worst situation in terms of hunger.
50% of salary
In the end, the situation derives, as Scaramella explains, in “a phenomenon of indebtedness that is taking place in a large part of this population.”
“The population spends up to 50% of their salaries on food” and with the increase in inflation “that percentage will increase”, which takes away space to be able to pay for other services such as health or education.
It is an alarming figure that ends up, in practice, resulting in “by reducing the spending capacity of households, the possibility of those households to enjoy a whole series of benefits is also reduced.”
Reforms to combat hunger
Colombia has, in the words of Scaramella, a “historical legacy of the type of economic articulation and investment that has been made in the country’s agriculture and also the historical legacy of the inequality with which land is distributed in the country.”
In other words, the poor distribution of land and the non-existent access that exists for many sectors of the population has exacerbated the situation of hunger, for which reason a rural reform -which is one of the points that the new government is trying to promote- is “fundamentals of change.”
This inequity in access to land “is completely intolerable”, which is why the WFP representative highlights measures such as the purchase of land that the Government has announced or other social protection measures.
“We think that this is the way to move forward, this is a dynamic process that needs continuous strengthening, very careful follow-up, and monitoring of the impact of these policies in order to ensure that the country can move forward,” he encourages.
The key to alleviating hunger: production
And so is “being able to work with the private sector to redirect a part of that potential that the country has around a production that is more directed at the Colombian consumer,” he says.
“The fact that Colombia imports more than 60% of its cereals is a paradox, that is something that cannot be allowed,” he stresses.
That is why the response of the State must go through “taking structural factors into account, improving production, ensuring that the territories are involved in productive processes and valuing native products.”
“The issue of hunger is a central issue not only for the well-being of the population, but for the political security of the country,” concludes Scaramella, so Colombia has to start seeing “food as a human right.”