Colombia is making remarkable strides towards improving its public health outcomes, including life expectancy.

Once ravaged by political instability and violence, the nation’s outlook is steadily improving. However, although the quality of life in major cities is improving, with increased access to health care and sanitation, rural Colombians have unequal access to these benefits that improve life expectancy.

In the article below, top 10 facts about life expectancy in Colombia are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Colombia

  1. According to the CIA World Fact Book, Colombians’ life expectancy rate is currently at 76.2 years, ranking the country 90th worldwide. Females live an average of 79.5 years and males live for 73 years. Overall life expectancy is up for nearly 20 years from the first data collection in 1960, when the life expectancy rate was at 56.75 years. The rate has increased by 5 years since the turn of the century.
  2. Concomitant with an improvement in life expectancy is a substantial decrease in infant mortality rate. When the World Bank began collecting data in 1960, Colombia’s infant mortality rate stood at 93.9 deaths per 1,000 births. As of 2017, that rate is 12.7, which is a reduction of 739 percent.
  3. Rising GDP per capita may help explain the increase in Colombia’s life expectancy. In a 10-year period, from 2003 to 2013, GDP per capita soared from $2,246 to $8,030. Although that number is slightly declining, this long period of sustained economic growth allows for improvement in health care infrastructure. Furthermore, more Colombians are able to afford access to clean water, sanitation, and health care treatments in comparison with previous generations.
  4. An astonishing success story in Colombia is a rapid decrease in the homicide rate. For decades, guerrilla groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) waged a war of terror, resulting in millions of internally displaced persons and a high homicide rate. In 1996, during a particularly violent phase of the conflict, Colombia’s homicide rate stood at 71.8 per 100,000 persons. Today, two decades later, that number is at 25.5.
  5. Although urban access to sanitation and potable water is well established, rural Colombia lags behind. Colombia is an extremely mountainous country, with many villages and towns geographically isolated from urban centers. While 96.8 percent of the urban population has access to improved water sources, only 73.8 percent of the rural population does. Similarly, urban and rural differences exist in terms of improved sanitation, standing at 85.2 percent and 67.9 percent, respectively.
  6. Many rural villages suffer from inadequate medical facilities. Rural populations near the tropical rainforest and Magdalena River must also contend with mosquito-borne diseases including malaria, yellow fever and the Zika virus. According to Malteser International, in the tropical departments of Magdalena and La Guajira, almost 59 percent of the population suffers from malnutrition, and only around one in seven are able to access basic medical care. Additionally, indigenous tribes in Colombia often do not receive adequate health care. Many of these tribes reside in rural regions adversely affected by the conflict with the FARC. Consequently, the government has limited influence in terms of public health initiatives. Furthermore, environmental degradation from mining has threatened the health of Wayuu group, Colombia’s largest indigenous population. The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs states that, as a result of coal mining along the Rancheria River, as many as 14,000 Wayuu children have died from starvation or thirst.
  7. Inefficiency among insurance providers in impeding the quality of treatment Colombian population receives plays a huge role in life expectancy in the country. All working Colombians have access to government-funded health care plans through their employer, although the individual providers of said plans can improve their implementation. A report from the OECD recommends “stronger performance and account management for health insurers”, meaning a better system to monitor insurers’ purchasing of services.
  8. Colombia is partnering with international organizations to improve food security for malnourished populations. The World Food Programme is working in conflict-affected regions to improve access to nutritious food. These initiatives include providing community meals, nutrition education and crop support for independent farmers.
  9. Both private and public sector expansion of the health care industry is taking place in Colombia. Drug companies and medical device manufacturers are investing in the market, reducing costs for Colombians through competition. Furthermore, the government is working to improve the number of hospital beds available. The current level is relatively low and stands at 1.58 beds per 100,000 individuals.
  10. The country has recorded continuous improvement in educational attainment. Since 1990, expected years of schooling increased from 9 years to 14.4 years. Education strongly correlates with higher personal health outcomes, as an educated population tends to make more health-conscious choices, such as improving their diet and visiting doctors. Education also correlates with higher socio-economic standing, which corresponds to improved sanitation.

The coming years will be critical for Colombia and its development. Positivity abounds a growing economy, increased foreign investment and security in the country, as the top 10 facts about life expectancy in Colombia described above point out.

The incoming administration of the new president, Iván Duque Márquez, promises reforms, especially regarding rural infrastructure in rural Colombia. Implementing the same strategies that have served its urban areas well, should benefit rural Colombians’ health care outlook.

–  Joseph Banish

Human Rights in Colombia
Colombia has various laws to prevent human rights violations; unfortunately, these laws often go ignored and are broken. Colombia is commonly referred to as the country with the ‘worst human rights record in the western hemisphere,’ but there’s always more to a story than popular taglines. Here are 10 facts about human rights in Columbia.

10 Facts about Human Rights in Columbia

  1. The Colombian government recently reached a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group to formally end the 52 years of conflict in their country. The civil war left 220,000 dead, 7 million displaced and led to numerous human rights violations — including the recruitment of child soldiers by rebel groups.
  2. There continues to be around 8,000 child soldiers in Colombia today. Colombia has a law that prohibits any person under 18 from engaging in military behavior, but children are still being recruited for guerrilla groups. Fortunately, FARC rebel groups in the past few years have promised to start releasing child soldiers and to stop recruiting under 17 year-olds.
  3. It is dangerous to be a trade union or social activist in Colombia. Many hoped violence would subside after the signing of the peace treaty, but attacks on union and social activists have actually skyrocketed since. In the past 20 years, over 3,000 unionists have been killed, making Colombia one of the most dangerous countries for trade union members.
  4. Even Colombia’s government military has committed human rights crimes against citizens. During the civil war, the Colombian army frequently executed citizens and reported them as enemy combatants in order to increase their body counts against the rebel groups. In 2017, the Attorney General’s office began investigating such atrocities and have convicted around 1,200 soldiers.
  5. Over 7.7 million Colombians have been displaced since the civil war began; in fact, around 48,000 people were displaced in 2017 alone. In 2011, a Victim’s Law was passed by which the Colombian government has been attempting to finish land restitution for millions of hectares of land. Although the program has made some progress, it is still moving slowly.
  6. Gender-based violence in Columbia is also common. The large amount — approximately 2 million — of displaced women are especially susceptible to high rates of rape and abuse. The government has attempted to reform laws addressing human rights in Colombia (such as gender violence), but the country lacks a proper system to enforce these laws.
  7. The U.S. is heavily involved as a foreign actor in Colombia. The country received almost $400 million in aid from the U.S. in 2017, a good chunk of which is allocated for human rights in Colombia. The money will also go towards anti-drug efforts, military education and anti-terrorism.
  8. FARC is the main rebel group known to commit numerous human rights violations in Columbia. Since the group’s inception in the 1960s, its members have committed atrocities such as child recruiting, sexual violence, murder and abductions. Thankfully, attacks from FARC have decreased since they declared a cease-fire in July 2015.
  9. Since the peace treaty, the U.N. has assisted Colombia in fighting for human rights in Colombia. The U.N. has urged the nation to create a regimented schedule that will enforce laws against human rights atrocities. They also recommended that Colombia start using an incentive system to prevent rebel groups from continuing violence.
  10. Indigenous peoples in Colombia are disadvantaged compared to other groups. Due to their lack of access to drinking water, child deaths are higher in indigenous groups in Colombia. They are more likely to live in low-income communities and have limited access to social resources.

A Brighter Future

Colombia has one of the worst human rights violations records in the western hemisphere. Despite such a reputation, the situation has improved since the end of the civil war, and the government is continuing to work towards a better future for the country.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr