Analysis of the context, crisis and needs
Over the past decade, Colombia has witnessed significant development advances. The 2016 Final Agreement to End the Conflict, signed by the Colombian Government and the former FARC guerilla, brought a period of relief not seen in decades. Despite this progress, surging socioeconomic needs in peripheral and urban areas due to COVID-19; the expansion and strengthening of organized non-State armed groups (NSAGs) in parts of the country; an increased impact of natural disasters; social unrest; and the integration of 1.8 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants have been the key drivers of an increase in humanitarian needs in Colombia.
In 2021, organized NSAGs have expanded rapidly in peripheral areas of the country, creating an increase in hostilities and violence affecting civilian populations, particularly ethnic minorities. Increased use of explosive ordnance, including improvised landmines, has been reported, particularly in rural areas and regions bordering neighbouring countries, where illicit crops and other illegal economies are located. In 2021, indigenous communities have been gravely affected by explosive ordnance, recording a 20 per cent increase in indigenous casualties compared with 2020. The increase in recruitment of minors has also been reported. 2021 witnessed the highest number of people affected by mass displacements and confinement in the last decade and a continuous trend in confinement affecting more than 113,000 people this year.
The frequency and severity of meteorological events due to climate change are also driving humanitarian needs and exacerbating the vulnerability of communities (Colombians and refugees and migrants from Venezuela). Extreme weather events, such as Hurricanes Eta and Iota in 2020, and the development of La Niña in the last quarter of 2021, have had significant consequences on the lives and livelihoods of affected communities, particularly due to the impact of severe floods and torrential rains, mainly in coastal areas. Access to health care, including emergency health care, is also a major concern and poses increased risks to lives. So far in 2021, disasters have affected approximately 600,000 people.
Record numbers of transcontinental population movements in the Americas were witnessed in 2021. These flows that comprise a large number of persons from different countries (mainly Haitian, Cuban and Venezuelan nationals, as well as other nationalities crossing Colombian territory end route to Central and North American countries have generated significant protection risks, especially as they traverse across the dangerous Darién Gap on foot. However, despite the official closure of the Colombia-Venezuela border for most of the pandemic, population flows of Venezuelan refugees and migrants into Colombia continued, mostly through irregular border crossings. Significant advances were made in granting Temporary Protection Status to Venezuelans, which will facilitate their access to basic services and job opportunities for socioeconomic integration.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the demands on the Government and affected the most vulnerable people in Colombia, leaving significant socioeconomic impact and compounding the existing humanitarian challenges. Due to the pandemic and the reconfiguration of emergencies, there is significant strain on health personnel, surveillance systems, information, and response efforts. There is an urgent need to continue supporting health personnel, communities, institutions and health authorities, particularly in geographically dispersed areas facing difficulties accessing health services. Rising levels of food insecurity and malnutrition and decreased livelihood opportunities, among other affectations, have specially affected to 3.8 million women and 2.4 million children, and increased school dropout rates due to a lack of access to virtual education have exposed children to high risks of recruitment by NSAGs and increased cases of teenage pregnancies. The Pacific region, which includes Cauca, Valle del Cauca, Chocó and Nariño Departments, is particularly impacted by these dynamics.
These humanitarian challenges have increased the number of people in need - from 6.7 million people in 2020 to 7.7 million people in 2021. These numbers exclude Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Colombia, which are analysed in the Refugee and Migrant Response Plan 2022.
Projected situation in 2022 and beyond
Humanitarian needs are expected to continue throughout 2022, underpinned by four drivers: internal armed violence, disasters, migratory movements (transcontinental mixed population movements, continued movements of Venezuelan refugees and migrants, and Colombian and binational returnees), and the economic and socioeconomic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. No major changes to Government policies are expected in the coming year due to forthcoming elections.
In this challenging year ahead, vulnerable communities will remain a priority for humanitarian partners. These communities include in particular those in rural and isolated settings and in hard-to-reach areas under the influence and control of NSAGs; communities near entry points for Venezuelan refugees and migrants; and areas where humanitarian access constraints persist for both State entities and humanitarian actors. This is due to the limited coping capacity of these vulnerable communities as well as the existing intersectoral needs of Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, particularly women, boys and girls. The proposed response will be coordinated and underpinned by intersectoral complementarity.
Violence and disasters exacerbated by the impact of climate change are likely to intensify in 2022. The impact of humanitarian emergencies will mostly affect the lives of communities living in high-risk areas, underpinned by in-depth analysis outlined in the HNO 2022. This will significantly impact protection, food security, livelihoods opportunities and coping mechanisms of affected communities, including indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombian communities. In turn, the rapid increase of transcontinental refugees and migrants transiting through Colombia will generate serious protection concerns for these vulnerable communities. As a result, the estimated PiN of humanitarian assistance in 2022 is 7.7 million people, including internally displaced persons, confined people, disaster-affected people, populations under NSAG control, as well as women, children, ethnic groups, persons with disabilities, transcontinental migrants and host communities.
Considering that these drivers are related to historical and structural situations caused by the actions of NSAGs, climate change and migratory flows to North American countries, it is estimated that humanitarian needs will continue beyond 2022.
Response priorities in 2022
In 2022, the humanitarian response in Colombia will continue to focus on communities living in rural areas, as well as in hard-to-reach areas where hostilities persist, and areas with limited coping capacities, high impacts from disasters, recurrent transcontinental migratory flows, and dynamics of multiple causes for intersectoral impact. Humanitarian actors will develop a strategy that is dedicated to the Pacific Coast, where major humanitarian impacts are expected to continue, and with greater emphasis on supporting Colombia's Afro-Colombian and indigenous peoples, as they are disproportionately affected by violence. Humanitarian actors will aim to provide a more integrated multisectoral response, which protects and saves lives through humanitarian assistance and protection, and contributes to lasting solutions, with particular consideration to protection, age and gender needs. Humanitarian actors will further engage in prevention and disaster preparedness measures. Enhancing rapid response mechanisms in the most affected territories will also be a priority. Humanitarian actors will continue to work closely with peace and development actors to maximize resources and attempt to facilitate lasting solutions for those most in need.
Achievements and innovations
Mobility restrictions of humanitarian personnel throughout 2020 and part of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on remote civilian populations. This was due to deteriorating insecurity caused by the territorial expansion of armed groups and the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19. The overall message of communities in peripheral rural areas of Colombia was that they felt abandoned. Many reported that the presence of humanitarian partners in their areas served as mitigating factor for abuses and the impact of the control exerted by armed groups.
As a result, the Humanitarian Country Team developed a protection-by-presence strategy aimed at ensuring a greater monitoring and presence by the international community - with the accompaniment of national entities, such as the Ombudsman Office. Combined with increased inter-agency missions to critical areas, as well as the implementation of the Multi-Sector Needs Assessment, this has helped to obtain key information on the daily struggles of many of these communities and to inform response strategies to attempt to mitigate their effects.
Source: Humanitarian Insight
Source: Financial Tracking Service
Source: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- UNMAS, Boletín Mensual Colombia August 2021
- OCHA data collected through humanitarian partners and clusters.
- OCHA data collected through humanitarian partners and reviewed by Triangulation Table Information cut-off September 2021.
- COVID-19 generated a decline of nearly a decade in the incidence of moderate and extreme poverty. The incidence of moderate poverty at the national level reached 42.5% of the population, and extreme poverty rose to 15.1%, totalling an increase of 3.6 million people living in moderate poverty and 2.8 million in extreme poverty (Source: DANE 2021).
- According to WFP, first results of COVID-19’s impact on food security and nutrition evaluations (WFP, February 2021), 1.6 million Colombians were in a situation of severe food insecurity, and 22 million in moderate food insecurity. The situation for the Venezuelan population in Colombia is equally worrying: almost 340,000 people are in severe food insecurity and around 850,000 people in a situation of moderate food insecurity.