Colombia's Improved Healthcare
Colombia’s healthcare system has improved by leaps and bounds over the past few decades. The country has been able to provide its people with adequate healthcare coverage due to reforms it started making in the 90’s. Colombia offers a variety of healthcare plans to its people, including one that is public and the rest which are private. Also, Colombia is home to 40% of the best hospitals in Latin America.

Additionally, in 2018 and out of 191 countries, Colombia ranked 22nd in healthcare, according to the World Health Organization. To understand Colombia’s improved healthcare, it is important to highlight the process responsible for the success that the system currently enjoys.

The Process

The current state of Colombia’s healthcare traces back to 1993 with the introduction of Law 100. Law 100 stated that all citizens of Colombia, regardless of their financial state, are entitled to a comprehensive healthcare plan. This law created Colombia’s healthcare coverage system called the Sistema General de Seguridad Social en Salud (SGSSS). Colombia uses both general taxation and payroll contributions to ensure that the SGSSS continues receiving funding.

This reform has been beneficial to Colombians in several ways. Just in the first 10 years of the introduction of the SGSSS into law — the number of Colombian citizens that had healthcare coverage skyrocketed. Only 25% of Colombians were covered in 1993 and by 2003 that number was up at 75%. The percentage of people covered by the healthcare system has only risen since 2003. In 2007 about 90% of Colombians received coverage and in 2011, the percentage was at 95%. Other indicators of Colombia’s improved healthcare coverage system is in the country’s improved life expectancy and infant mortality. In 1993, with the introduction of the SGSSS, life expectancy was at 69 years. By 2015, the average life expectancy was at 74 years. The infant mortality rate in Colombia was 21 deaths per 1,000 births in the year 2000. In 2015 the infant mortality rate was down to 14 per 1,000 births.

Healthcare’s Impact on Poverty

Colombia’s improved healthcare has also been extremely beneficial to those living in poverty. For the poorest 20% in Colombia,  healthcare coverage was as low as 4% in 1993. This figure rose to 89% in 2016. Also, Colombians who live in rural areas have had an increase in coverage — rising from 6.6% in 1993 and growing to 92.6% in 2016. Moreover, Colombians all have the same types of health plans available to them. This means that any particular citizen has the same options available for them to choose from as any other citizen. Medical patients’ out-of-pocket spending on health services in Colombia is only at 14%. This figure is much lower than what most citizens in other Latin American countries pay.

A New Challenge

Colombia’s improved healthcare is a product of more than two decades of work and reform. The reforms have allowed many Colombian’s to have the healthcare they need, without the extreme costs. This includes all types of Colombians, regardless of their socio-economic standing. The only challenge to further reforms in Colombia is the growing population within the country. As the country grows so will the population and the amount of money the country spends on its healthcare system. This represents another challenge that the nation should bear in mind, going forward.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Unsplash

Renewable Energy in ColombiaIn the past decade, the nation of Colombia has made great changes to the way that it obtains energy. These changes have allowed the country to become more reliant on its abundant renewable water resources. Today, Columbia relies heavily on hydroelectric power; so much so that it accounts for 65% of its annual energy consumption. During 2010, Colombia saw higher growth than any other country in the use of renewable energy. This is because of the transition to hydropower, with renewable energy generation at 2,543 MW. However, though hydroelectric power accounts for much of the energy production in the country, Columbia also has an abundance of other potential sources, including solar power, biomass and wind. This abundance of renewable energy in Colombia may become necessary in the years to come.

Wind Energy

Wind energy opportunities are extremely abundant in Colombia. Many experts have come to the conclusion that wind energy could sustain Colombia’s current total consumption. One area of Colombia, called La Guajira, is known for its extremely high wind speeds. This region on its own has the potential to provide an estimated capacity of 21GW. Colombia’s first wind farm is actually located in this area. It is possible that more could be installed to increase the potential of wind energy.

Biomass

Biomass is another potential source of renewable energy in Columbia. Due to the large agricultural sector within the nation, there are large amounts of agricultural waste that could be used to generate energy. For example, coffee is the largest agricultural export in Colombia, providing one-fourth of agricultural jobs within Colombia. Bananas and rice are important agricultural products as well;  overall, about 2 million metric tons of bananas and 1.8 million of rice are produced annually. These staple crops create large amounts of agricultural waste, which gives Columbia the potential to create biomass projects that could convert that waste into energy.

The Negatives of Reliance on Hydropower

Renewable energy in Colombia is clearly abundant. Yet, the country is extremely reliant on mostly hydropower. Part of the reason for this preference is due to a 1990s privatization act in Colombia, which led to about 50% of the hydropower production converting to private ownership. However, the use of alternate renewable energy might prove essential to the future of Colombia’s energy.

According to Energy Transition, Colombia’s reliance on hydropower could have negative outcomes. Just like other forms of energy, hydropower can have an invasive effect on the environment: dams that are used to generate hydropower can detrimentally impact various ecosystems, and even cause floods – such as the Hidroituango hydropower plant, which majorly flooded in 2018 and severely impacted the surrounding environment.

About 27% of people in Colombia live in poverty, and that number grows to 36% for those living in more rural locations. Additionally, impoverished and developing nations are often more negatively impacted by natural disasters than other nations. These statistics place impoverished Colombians at a great disadvantage if hydropower triggers any other large-scale environmental event; thus, diversification of energy resources is necessary.

While hydropower has done some good, renewable energy in Colombia still has the potential to be expanded. It can protect important ecosystems and prevent those living in poverty from natural disasters that can be prevented. Renewable energy in Colombia can accomplish this all while paving the way for increased reliance on clean energy.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Unsplash

sustainable farming practices
Nubia Cardenas and her two sons, Jeimer and Arley, live in the countryside of Chipaqué, Colombia, a municipality close to Bogotá, the country’s capital. They have recently become YouTube stars with their channel “Nubia e hijos,” or “Nubia and children.” Many farmers in Colombia grow large fields of onions, potatoes and aromatic herbs for the residents of metropolitan areas. However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, food supplies are more difficult to access and food prices are steadily increasing. This makes it more difficult for low-income communities and farmers to get the resources they need to survive. In this context, Cardenas’s YouTube channel, which focuses on sustainable farming practices, is crucial for farmers in Colombia.

Peasant Farming in Colombia

Recent corruption within the Colombian government is putting an even bigger strain on peasant communities throughout Columbia. The former minister of agriculture, Andrés Felipe Arias, created the Agro Ingreso Seguro program to assist poor farmers in the economic downturn. While the program was supposed to be a low-interest line of credit from the government to impoverished farmers, it only benefited wealthy farmers, giving them subsidies greater than 26,000 pesos.

The Agro Ingreso Seguro program might have resulted in a $300 billion diversion of funds, but it enabled the top 1% of the largest farms in Columbia to dominate 81% of the country’s farms, while millions of poor farmers live on tiny plots of land. Although Arias received a 17-year prison sentence over this scandal, his actions greatly impacted impoverished Colombian communities’ access to resources and opportunities they desperately need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Columbia’s economic state and the current state of the world were two major reasons for the creation of the “Nubia e hijos” YouTube channel. The purpose of the channel is to share tips for sustainable farming practices, like how to grow fruits, vegetables and herbs. In doing so, the Cardenas family hopes to ensure that no one will have to go to bed hungry in Colombia.

5 Interesting Facts About the “Nubia e hijos” Channel

  1. The First Video: The family posted its first video without electricity and with little technical knowledge. Neither Cardenas nor her two sons had any knowledge about technology or social media before deciding to create a channel. The family did not even have a laptop to edit the video, but they were still dedicated to sharing their knowledge and helping others. Once the videos went viral, the trio reached out to their neighbor and friend, Sigifredo Moreno, and the social enterprise Huertos de la Sabana to collaborate on the channel’s audiovisual production.
  2. Planting Kits: Along with sharing their extensive cultivation knowledge, the family uses its YouTube platform to sell homemade planting kits to low-income farmers and families. For $5, subscribers can purchase kits that include soil, bags and seeds for planting. For $7, subscribers can purchase kits that include soil, seeds and three potted plants. The Cardenas family hopes that by providing viewers with both the knowledge and resources to enact sustainable farming practices, more individuals will have a constant, affordable and sustainable food supply.
  3. Beyond Food: The Cardenas family uses its platform to discuss other social issues in Columbia besides sustainable farming practices. In the family’s third video, Cardenas, her sister and her two sons discuss the difficulties of living in the countryside and taking virtual classes. Many impoverished families who live in the countryside of Columbia do not have access to the resources necessary to complete virtual classes, such as laptops and the internet. Therefore, the Cardenas family uses its channel to advocate for better tools and instructions for peasant children during COVID-19.
  4. Going Viral: “Nubia e hijos” now has 424,000 subscribers. In 11 days, Cardenas and her two sons posted four videos, which caused the YouTube channel to go viral. Their tips and instructions on how to plant food at home have become very popular and a large audience from all over the world is now viewing the Cardenas family’s videos. The family also has over 170,000 followers on Instagram due to its newfound fame.
  5. Improved Lifestyle: The Cardenas family was able to purchase a laptop due to support from their fans, both subscribers and buyers of their kits. In a recent video, Cardenas’s sons smiled as they show off their new laptop to the camera. The family can now use the laptop to produce more videos to help others like them through sustainable farming practices.

The coronavirus pandemic has limited interaction and communication to strictly online forms. However, the Cardenas family was dedicated to sharing their potentially life-saving knowledge with others. Through the “Nubia e hijos” YouTube channel, the Cardenas family has established an innovative way to improve their own economic situation and help fight hunger and poverty in many parts of the world through sustainable farming practices.

– Ashley Bond
Photo: Flickr

The Transformation of Crime in Medellín, Colombia


The reign of Pablo Escobar left a dark stain on Colombia’s beautiful jungles and colorful streets. The city of Medellín felt it in
particular. This was the hub of his cartel for over 20 years, filling the city with drugs, crime and poverty. Since then, however, crime in Medellín, Colombia has taken such a drastic downturn in the city that many consider it a miracle. Poverty rates have also dropped, and the city is now one of the most progressive urban spaces in the world.

History of High Crime

Pablo Escobar ran the Medellín Cartel from 1972-1993. In 1991, the murder rate of Medellín was 381 per 100,000 residents in a population of 2.1 million, making it the most dangerous city in the world at that time. Even though the city has seen a slight rise in homicide rates since achieving its lowest in history in 2015 (20 per 100,000 residents), it has come a long way, and this is largely due to its implementation of social infrastructure programs.

After Escobar died and the cartel disbanded, officials believed that increased police activity to break up gangs would lower crime rates in Medellín. However, murder rates still soared even after the cartel left. In the first year of an Escobar-free Medellín, the city still had a murder rate of three times that of the rest of the country. It did not match the murder statistics of the rest of the country until 2005 when it finally fell to 37 homicides per 100,000 residents

The Start of a Transformation

Crime and poverty rates did not begin to continuously decline until the implementation of social infrastructure programs. Social infrastructure refers to facilities that include education, health and youth services that promote a high-quality lifestyle. The city has utilized social urbanism, an umbrella term that includes social infrastructure focused on mobility and safe public spaces. These developments have the public good in mind, with the intent of providing better outcomes for peoples’ livelihoods. In Medellín, the government focused on providing access to quality sanitation, clean water and public transportation.

Starting in 2004, the city built beautiful buildings in its poorest neighborhoods. These structures remind those communities that they deserve beauty just like everyone else. This then led to public transportation lines being available in these neighborhoods in order to connect them with the city center, which is also the economic hub. These projects continued to be implemented within marginalized neighborhoods and included: 10 new schools, large parks that doubled as museums and libraries, a cultural center and a public gondola to connect many inaccessible hilltop communities with the rest of the city.

Outcomes and Continued Work

The GDP of Medellín alone now accounts for 10% of the GDP for all of Colombia. In 2015, Medellín claimed the best quality of life in all of Colombia and in all of Latin America. As of 2017, the city saw a 56% decrease in poverty levels, with only 2.8% living in extreme poverty. It also now has the best access to clean water and sanitation than any other city of its size and wealth in Colombia.

MasterPeace is an international organization that works to promote peacebuilding projects in countries coming out of conflict, and/or have high crime rates. The Peace Hub works under MasterPeace in Medellín. It conducts projects such as youth boot camps, art, dance and writing classes. It also promotes the creation of social businesses in order to create solidarity with the community.

These organizations have recognized the importance of utilizing culture and community in bringing peace and reducing crime in Medellín, Colombia.

Conclusion

Peace deals and law enforcement have played an important role in revitalizing and reducing crime in Medellín, Colombia. However, the city flourished because its officials decided to attack the root of the problem. Crime is often a result of desperation from tumultuous conditions. When officials choose to look at root causes of crime, rather than reacting to crimes ex-post, they begin seeking long-term, sustainable solutions. The programs in Medellín are not one size fits all. Still, they teach a valuable lesson on the importance of revitalizing the dignity of marginalized communities. Medellín is a prime example of how access to basic needs can transform cities, as well as countries.

Stephanie Russo
Photo: Flickr

inequality in columbia
In Colombia, the issue of income inequality is undeniable. Income inequality is present largely due to income distribution and poverty. The Colombian government proposed reforms for economic and social aspects. However, the reforms only benefitted businesses, leaving behind the working class, indigenous groups, young people, women and ethnic groups. In recent years, the divide between the rich and poor has become more noticeable.

3 Aspects of Inequality in Colombia

  1. Land Inequality: To pay off debts, the Colombian Government sold off large portions of public land from 1823 to 1931, which led to the concentrated system of land ownership. To concentrate land, the Colombian government used tax incentives, which promoted inefficient land cultivation and hindered economic activity. Mechanisms for the concentration of land include the expulsion of peasant populations, which exacerbates the inequality in Colombia. This violent expropriation led to higher rates of poverty in the countryside than in cities.
  2. Income Inequality: According to the World Bank, in 2017, only 10% of Colombia’s population received 39% of Columbia’s income. This means that the most wealthy earn a large portion of the country’s income, whereas the rest is spread out disproportionately between the rich and poor due to the lack of a middle class. Furthermore, the working class lacks much-needed government aid.
  3. Women and Children in Colombia: Compared to men, women earn 13-23% less for the same jobs. A lack of flexibility in working arrangements directly affects female labor workers. This practice and the wage gaps clearly exemplify gender discrimination in Colombia. Women lack flexible schedules that allow time for maternity leave or other childcare-related absences. There have been many effects on infants and toddlers in Colombia. Due to malnutrition, around 346 toddlers died in 2018. Another reason for the deaths of these toddlers is poverty and lack of healthcare access in communities. According to the World Bank, malnutrition killed 14 children per 1,000 births in 2018. The majority of healthcare issues for children have a relationship with malnutrition.

Looking to the Future

One nonprofit organization and NGO that is working to eliminate inequality in Colombia is the Pintando Caminos Asociación Para Recrear el Futuro. This NGO has worked for 12 years to improve the lives of children by providing opportunities to children in oppressed and impoverished areas, such as Bogota, Colombia. Bogota is known for its slums, the conditions of which the government overlooks, allowing cartels to easily control the area. This creates a cycle of poverty. This organization is trying to break that cycle by providing aid and necessary tools to allow children to succeed without inequality holding them back. So far, they have raised over $43,781 and have helped 140 children.

Due to the inequality in Colombia, only 10% of the population succeeds, whereas the rest are struggling from the unlivable wages and working conditions. This inequality differently affects the working class or low-income workers, as well as those who are most vulnerable in society: children.

– Samira Akbary
Photo: Flickr

Mosquito Breeding Sites With a Data Analytics App
In Colombia, 27% of people live in poverty and more than 7 million are considered internally displaced people (IDPs). These people fled their homes because of a long-running civil war and guerrilla attacks. Alongside rampant poverty and displacement, Colombia struggles with mosquito-borne diseases, reporting 1,400 cases of Zika in a single year and more than 84,664 cases of dengue fever. Worldwide, more than 1 million people die of mosquito-related illnesses each year. Premise, a company that specializes in data analytics, partnered with Colombia’s government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to fight Colombia’s deadly Zika outbreaks and mosquito breeding sites with a data analytics app.

The Problem

At the beginning of 2016, South America was in the midst of Zika and dengue fever outbreaks. In 2019, more than 2 million South Americans contracted dengue, and at least 720 people died. Both Zika and dengue are mosquito-borne diseases that Aedes aegypti mosquitoes primarily spread. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are also the main transmitters of yellow fever and chikungunya. These mosquitoes contract the virus by biting into people who already have an infection. Then, the mosquitoes spread the virus further by continuing to bite others. Only female mosquitoes are able to bite people, which is why only female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes transmit the virus.

In 2015-2016, Colombia had the second-largest Zika outbreak in the world. Cali, a city of 2.4 million people, accounted for more than 20% of the country’s cases. Some Colombians live in slum areas that lack proper sewage and garbage disposal systems, sanitation and running water. These areas are especially attractive to mosquitos, and during heavy rainfall, the health situation worsens because the slums experience flooding, creating stagnant water and puddles close to people’s homes.

Premise’s Mission

In 2017, Premise, a predictive data analytics company based in San Francisco, conducted its first phase of internal vector monitoring of Cali. The company records, georeferences and photographs mosquito breedings sites with a data analytics app, aiming to increase awareness across Colombian cities and give communities a way to fight mosquito-borne diseases. During the first phase, Premise digitally recorded 40,000 sewers and put them into the system; in the second phase, which began in 2018, Premise received funding from USAID.

As part of Premise’s work in Colombia, 7,000 people participated in a citizen network project, through which the community actively collaborated in monitoring and destroying mosquito breeding sites. Soon after Premise took off, 108,000 homes received inspections and more than 70,000 mosquito breeding sites were demolished — often by app users, who poured chlorine on the sites. The average number of breeding sites in people’s homes decreased from three to less than two in only one year.

Premise’s data science led to organized mosquito-management practices, such as vector control (killing larvae to decrease the population of male mosquitoes) and vector surveillance (keeping mosquito densities under close watch). Premise recorded 54,000 direct sewage openings that had a high likelihood of mosquitoes, and thanks to data granularity, locations of mosquito breeding sites were outlined down to the street intersections. The data analytics app not only tracked down mosquito hotspots and the origins of disease transmission but also gave civilians access to key records and methods to reduce mosquito breedings sites.

Citizen Participation

One reason for Premise’s success was the participation of local communities in its Citizen Network pilot project. Citizens directly contributed to monitoring Zika outbreaks and expanded the frequency charts and other collected data. In 2018, 2,911 citizens in Cali were actively engaged in Premise’s project, and thousands of people continue to complete Premise’s tasks each month, such as taking pictures of mosquito breeding sites, for small money prizes, which Premise sends via Bitcoin or bank deposit.

With the support of the USAID and local Colombian citizen networks, Premise is able to monitor and control Aedes aegypti mosquito breeding sites with a data analytics app. This innovative app decreases dangerous and deadly epidemics across Colombia, and soon, Premise may expand its mission across South America to help other nations in need of mosquito-borne disease control.

Anna Sharudenko
Photo: Flickr

Colombian agribusiness
As of June 2019, approximately 4 million Venezuelan refugees had fled their home country in search of shelter from the “State-Sponsored Terror” of dictator Nicolás Maduro; by the end of 2020, this number could increase to as many as 8.2 million total Venezuelans seeking refuge. Already, around 1.7 million Venezuelan refugees have sought shelter in neighboring Colombia, creating an overwhelming demand for food and other supplies in regions closest to the Colombia-Venezuela border. In response to this emerging humanitarian crisis, a Colombian agribusiness has found an innovative solution that ensures Venezuelan refugees receive food and humane treatment while also helping struggling local economies. What exactly is this solution? The agribusiness of imperfect potatoes.

Agribusiness In Motion

The Colombian agribusiness company Acceso works to revitalize the economy of a nation whose rural poverty rate is 35%. Acceso’s success derives from its business model, which links rural farmers to urban marketplaces and provides a variety of resources to farmers–from startup cost aid to seed access–to ensure that they turn a profit.

Essentially, Acceso acts as a middleman between small Colombian farms and larger stores. Acceso buys crops in bulk from small Colombian farmers in order to resell them in commercial marketplaces. However, in doing so, Acceso often ends up purchasing products like “imperfect looking but edible potatoes.” Despite their imperfections, these potatoes hold the key to the success of Acceso’s entire operation.

Crops that are too small or have visual defects like scratches are still nutritious and viable; their defects, though merely visual, impair the ability of farms and Colombian agribusiness firms to sell them in commercial marketplaces. For the small farmer, growing imperfect crops elicits a loss of money. In normal farmer-market relationships, imperfect crops either have to be sold by small farmers in local markets for a lower price or they go to waste.

Because Acceso buys all of a farm’s crops regardless of their condition, they assure that farmers are adequately compensated for all of the crops they grow. An Acceso partnership can increase the revenue of an individual farm by as much as 50%. It maximizes the profit of small farms because Acceso pays more than normal consumers would for every piece of produce grown, enriching every sector of Colombia’s farming industry and helping stabilize the economy of rural Colombia.

Colombia’s agricultural GDP has increased by 1,502 billion Colombian pesos (about $400 million) since late 2019. An increase of this quantity illuminates how the growth of Colombian agribusiness keeps small farmers from falling into poverty, rewards them for their hard work and expands the Colombian economy.

Kitchens Without Food

In 2017, 8 out of 10 Venezuelans reported having a reduced caloric intake due to a lack of food at home, and around one-third of Venezuelans eat less than three meals each day. This explains why many Venezuelan refugees in Colombia–especially children–come across the border severely undernourished.

As they cross the border into Colombia, these refugees–some of whom have only eaten salted rice for an extended period of time–need nutrition urgently. This creates immense demand for food in border cities like Cúcuta, which have seen a massive influx of Venezuelan refugees. The Colombian government has partnered with NGO’s to establish relief kitchens on the border such as Nueva Ilusión in Cúcuta in order to meet the nutritional and humanitarian needs of Venezuelan refugees.

Unfortunately, these border kitchens still struggle to find adequate funding. International relief aid for the Venezuelan refugee crisis has only totaled $580 million, a number woefully short of the amount needed to ensure humane treatment for all refugees entering Colombia. To remedy this, the Colombian government has launched over $230 million in credit lines to invest in border cities with high numbers of refugees.

Albeit, even an amount that large might be insufficient to meet the needs of the incoming refugees. Many border kitchens providing nutritious meals to Venezuelan refugees lack the appropriate financial resources to provide enough of it.

Supply? Demand.

Each organization mentioned thus far faces an issue. Acceso has acquired imperfect crops that they cannot sell. Border kitchens lack funding and need nutritious foods to turn into meals for Venezuelan refugees.

This is where supply meets demand.

Recognizing the gravity of the malnutrition crisis among Venezuelan refugees in Colombia, Acceso partnered with border kitchens like Nueva Ilusión to give Venezuelan refugees the dignified treatment they deserve.

Instead of throwing away the imperfect crops that they cannot sell, Acceso now donates these crops to border kitchens. As of March 2020, the Colombian agribusiness contributed over 480 metric tons of fruits and vegetables to border kitchens, making 4.3 million nutritious meals.

On a daily basis, the products donated by Acceso are made into around 2,000 meals per day per kitchen, 600 of which are served to malnourished children fleeing from Venezuela. By donating food to meet the demand of border kitchens, Acceso has helped make progress towards alleviating the nutritional crisis that plagues Venezuelan refugees both young and old.

With their agribusiness, Acceso links the needs of two impoverished groups in Colombia and assures that their needs are met with reciprocal flourishing. In conjunction with both the farmers and kitchens, Acceso confers economic benefits to small Colombian farms while also ensuring that border kitchens have enough food supplies to provide refugees.

Acceso’s work linking the needs of small Colombian farmers and Venezuelan refugees has helped to fill the gap in relief created by a lack of funding for humanitarian aid efforts in this region. Its successes with rural farmers and malnourished Venezuelan refugees have shown how the most impactful relief can often be found in the most dignified mediums of exchange.

Nolan McMahon
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in ColombiaColombia, a country in the north-central region of South America, sits in an ideal position to expand both its economy and the wellbeing of its citizens. As one of South America’s premier exporters of a wide array of goods, including energy and cut flowers, the country has a relatively favorable economic outlook. However, this country, of just under 50 million people, faces serious economic hurdles as well. Rampant poverty hampers the lower classes, limiting Colombia’s ability to develop and industrialize.

Poverty in Colombia

About 34% of Colombians live in “poor conditions.” This number is especially stark because Colombia is home to massive wealth inequality. Many of the richest members of Colombian society own disproportionate amounts of wealth.

Internal conflict has worsened conditions for people in Colombia. For more than 50 years, Colombia has experienced relatively severe internal conflicts, most of which originated from drug trafficking that swept the nation in the 1970s and 80s. This led to many people migrating into urban slums, where homelessness was rampant. More than 5.7 million people have been displaced due to the ongoing violence present in the country. As a result of this conflict and the frequent migration of communities, living conditions in settled areas have been notoriously bad. Homelessness in Colombia has affected 662,146 families, and more than 3.8 million families do not have “adequate” housing.

Organizations Are Working to Help

Organizations like Habitat for Humanity have tried to make a dent in these high rates of homelessness in Colombia, pledging support to hundreds of thousands of families in need. While helping to build up neighborhoods, Habitat for Humanity has also worked with Colombians to instill technical skills for construction and to build better community infrastructure. In addition, the organization is helping to provide financial education and making targeted investments in communities.

Another organization, called the Homeless World Cup Foundation, is combating homelessness in Colombia through athletics. The foundation’s mission is to provide access to soccer in some of the poorest communities in the country — not only bringing social cohesion and opportunity to disadvantaged communities but also creating new avenues for players to pursue careers in sports and other fields. The organization has touched the lives of more than 20,000 children and their families.

Tackling Homelessness in an Emerging Economy

Colombia is recognized as one of the world’s “emerging economies.” While homelessness in Colombia is a dire problem, the economic outlook for Colombia is relatively positive — with a consistent 3% expected economic growth for the first half of the 20th century. Through proper planning and prudent public policy, Colombian leaders can use this economic growth to tackle homelessness in Colombia and improve the lives of citizens in need.

Zak Schneider
Photo: Pixabay

Violence in ColombiaThe Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) formally ended their armed conflict with a peace agreement in 2016. This was after more than 50 years of conflict between the government and the guerilla group. Despite the agreement’s plans for peace and a hopeful future, there were still illegal militant groups and members of FARC who refused to obey the government. They continued to perpetrate violence in the country as they fight for political and economic control over different Colombian regions. As a result of continued conflict, violence in Colombia remains a public threat and results in mass displacement, deaths and disappearances.

Links Between Violence and Poverty

Violence in Colombia sustains the country’s extreme poverty. A study conducted in rural Colombia found that those who experience violence are more likely to remain in a cycle of poverty as a result of economic loss, trauma and fear. The country’s unparalleled amount of internally displaced people also contributes to poverty. 139,000 people were displaced within Colombia due to violence in 2019 alone. Most of the people displaced come from rural areas where 70% of the population lives in poverty. This makes them particularly susceptible to violence. Violence prevails in the nation and continues to keep people in poverty. However, nonprofits are committed to reducing violence by promoting a culture of peace. These 3 organizations are working to reduce violence in Colombia.

Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC)

GPPAC aims to motivate Colombian youth as changemakers by promoting dialogue between different generations. The organization addresses the lack of youth community and political engagement in Colombia. GPPAC recognizes that young people’s faith in their country’s social fabric is essential to promoting peace over violence. By inspiring a new generation of peacemakers that learn from the past and are excited about the future, GPPAC quells violence in Colombia.

The organization’s Intergenerational Project in Colombia in 2017 and 2018 resulted in dialogues in 15 regions most affected by violence. GPPAC organized conversations that took place in schools and included the participation of teachers, parents, students and members of several social organizations. The diversity of people participating built trust between different generations and social groups. This empowers young people to continue fostering a culture of peace in their communities.

Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps aims to address violence in Colombia through prevention and intervention. The organization strengthens networks between teachers and parents to keep children in school since parents often take their children out of school to work. However, children who do not attend school are more likely to experience violence. Mercy Corps tends to students’ individual needs and equipping schools with the tools to address students subjected to violence. By doing this, it puts an end to the cycle of violence that is correlated to a lack of education. The organization also tends to former child soldiers by teaching them how to generate income. It also empowers them with leadership skills. Since its founding, Mercy Corps has served more than 62,000 children in areas most affected by violence in Colombia.

Interpeace

Interpeace builds a culture of peace in Colombia through the Peacebuilding Model of National Police, a program that began in 2017. In partnership with nonprofit Alianza para la Paz, Interpeace works with the Colombian National Police to promote peacebuilding responses to violence and conflict.

One Interpeace program focuses on violence prevention and management in 5 regions that are particularly prone to violence. Police are encouraged to resolve conflict in socially violent situations rather than exacerbating the situation with an aggressive response. Another program aims to improve police response to gender-based violence in areas most affected by armed conflict in Colombia. Interpeace strives to improve the government’s preparation and response to these types of violence. Ultimately, these programs will improve the local trust of police and other government figures. At the same time, they will reduce violence in Colombia’s most vulnerable communities.

 

Overall, the 2016 peace agreement provided a foundation for a hopeful future. However, the Colombian government needs to address violence in the country’s most vulnerable rural areas more effectively. The Colombian government could reduce poverty in Colombia’s rural areas to bridge the urban-rural gap. By doing so, it could more successfully quell violence in the nation. This renewed government response is integral to strengthening Colombia by reducing violence. By following the lead of GPPAC, Mercy Corps and Interpeace, the government can successfully move Colombia forward. These 3 organizations are instrumental in fostering a culture of nonviolence in Colombia.

Melina Stavropoulos
Photo: Flickr

mass incarcerations in Colombia
Colombia is a country in South America with a population of nearly 50 million as of 2018. It is the second largest country located in South America, with the 38th largest economy in the world. The Colombian Justice System is structured similarly to that of the United States, where defendants have the right to a fair and speedy trial and are sentenced by judges.

Colombian prisons have a problem with mass incarceration. They have an overall capacity of 80,928 people; however, their actual capacity is at 112,864 people as of May 2020. The majority of people are incarcerated for non-violent crimes, such as drug-related offenses. Mass incarcerations in Colombia are also an issue because they lead to other health issues, such as the transmission of HIV and tuberculosis. Here are four more important things to know about mass incarcerations in Colombia.

Mass Incarcerations in Colombia: 4 Things to Know

  1. Capacity Rates: There are 132 prisons in Colombia with a total maximum capacity of just over 80,000 people. Despite this capacity, Colombian prisons have an occupancy level of 139.5%, or just over 112,000 people. Women make up approximately 6.9% of this number, or about 7,700 women. There are no children actively incarcerated in Colombian prisons. The country’s congress has regularly fought against the release of prisoners, instead choosing to keep the prisons full.
  2. Effects of COVID-19: Prison riots are becoming increasingly common in Latin America with the spread of the coronavirus. Mass incarcerations in Colombia have created panic amongst the prisoners, who have demanded more attention to their conditions. The Colombian Minister of Justice, Margarita Cabello, has not outwardly acknowledged the prison riots as demands for better care against COVID-19. Instead, she has stated that the riots were an attempt to thwart security and escape from prison. Furthermore, because of the scarcity in the number of doctors, many prisoners have contracted and/or died from COVID-19. In one particular prison in central Colombia, over 30% of staffers and prisoners have become infected with the virus.
  3. Infectious Diseases: Beside COVID-19, mass incarcerations in Colombia have allowed for the spread of other infectious diseases, such as HIV and tuberculosis. Colombian prisons have designated cell blocks for those who contract HIV, as it is common for prisoners to engage in sexual relationships with guards. Healthcare facilities are not readily available in prisons, and condoms are in scarce supply. Active cases of tuberculosis (TB) also correlate with mass incarcerations in Colombia. Approximately 1,000 prisoners per 100,000 were found to have active cases of TB with little to no access to affordable care.
  4. Possible Solutions: Local citizens Mario Salazar and Tatiana Arango created the Salazar Arango Foundation for Colombian prisoners. Salazar conceived the idea after being imprisoned in 2012 on fraud charges and seeking ways to make serving his sentence more tolerable. The Salazar and Arango Foundation provides workshops for prisoners in the city of La Picota and puts on plays for fellow inmates. Prisoners have found the organization to be impactful to their self-esteem and their push for lower sentences.

Mass incarcerations have had major impacts on the Colombian prison system. Issues such as food shortages and violence have given way to poverty-like conditions with little action. Despite these conditions, organizations such as the Salazar Arango Foundation look to make mass incarcerations in Colombia more tolerable for those behind bars. Hopefully, with time, mass incarcerations in Colombia can eventually be eliminated.

– Alondra Belford
Photo: Unsplash