Poverty and inequality
Colombia has a growing economy, and poverty levels have come down in recent years. Yet millions of Colombians are still desperately poor.
- Poverty: Of Colombia's 48.9 million people, 27.8% live in poverty, rising to 40.3% in rural areas.
- Extreme Poverty: 7.9%, nearly 4 million people, live in extreme poverty, lacking even the essentials of life. This figure rises to 18% in the countryside.
- Inequality: Very high levels of inequality mean Colombia has the lowest level of human development in all South America, except Paraguay and Bolivia. Although poverty levels have reduced in recent years, inequality has not.
While average levels of poverty in Colombia are troublingly high, poverty is even higher among certain groups and regions. For example, a study showed that in 2015, two thirds of Colombia's millions of displaced people live in poverty.
Afro-Colombian and indigenous people, women, people with disabilities and young people who have been in care are also disproportionately likely to be affected by poverty.
Military confrontation has directly affected the lives of over 8 million Colombians in the last 50 years, with over 200,000 people killed and unknown numbers of people ‘disappeared’ (estimates are between 45,000 to 111,000).
A peace deal has been signed to end 52 years of armed conflict between the Colombian government and the country’s largest guerrilla group, the FARC. This presents great opportunities to construct a more peaceful society for all.
However, as important as it is, the deal alone cannot solve all the problems that Colombia faces. Various illegal armed groups continue to operate in Colombia and many neighbourhoods are controlled by armed groups and gangs, including guerrillas and former paramilitaries. Murder, extortion, sexual violence and other human rights abuses by these groups continue to drive large numbers of people from their homes.
The number of people internally displaced (forced to flee their homes but remaining in the country) by violence has now reached over 6 million, second only to Syria (7.6 million) and accounts for 16% of the world's internally displaced people (IDPs).
- More than 50% of Colombian IDPs live in informal urban settlements.
- 63% of Colombian IDPs live below the poverty line and 33% live in extreme poverty.
- 48% of Colombian IDPs are 6-26 years old
In the 4 years since peace negotiations with the FARC began, over 230,000 children were forcibly displaced, suggesting that children will continue to be at risk of displacement, violence and abuse even if the peace deal is successful.
What does this mean for children in Colombia?
The effects of all of this on children are multiple and serious.
The children who Children Change Colombia work with live in sprawling urban slums where they have limited access to basic services such as water, electricity, health care and education.
Violence and insecurity is pervasive in their neighbourhoods, children are at high risk of recruitment into armed groups, and there are often ‘invisible borders’ controlled by rival gangs, which children can’t cross without risking their lives. Children also face high levels of sexual violence and many are affected by violence at school.
Witnessing and experiencing violence of different kinds often leaves children traumatised.
In this environment it is very difficult for children to enjoy a safe and happy childhood free from poverty, violence or exploitation. This is what all of our partners seek to address, so that the children that we work with can properly take advantage of opportunities to build safer lives for themselves, their families, and their communities.