PANAMA CITY – Two thirds of the 3 million Venezuelan migrants in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru who have seen their jobs disappear and their incomes plummet during the pandemic will see their food insecurity worsen in 2020, according to the United Nations World Food Programme’s COVID-19 projections.

Latin America and the Caribbean is expected to register an alarming 269 percent rise in the number of people facing severe food insecurity when compared to 2019 – the highest relative increase globally. Nearly 16 million people*, which includes 1.9 million Venezuelan migrants, will this year face  a critical situation that warrants urgent attention.

“We are worried about the millions who are suffering the impact of the pandemic in our continent,” said Miguel Barreto, U.N. World Food Programme’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “Without enough work and income, hunger is what’s next for them. We must act now. We can’t leave anyone behind.”

In the case of migrants, the projection combines moderate and severe food insecurity and is based on a remote survey the U.N. World Food Programme conducted between April and May 2020 on the impact of COVID-19 on their lives. Economic indicators for Latin America and the Caribbean were also analyzed following the outbreak.

With predictions that gross domestic product (GDP) in the region will shrink by 9.1 percent** – the biggest contraction in a century, estimates suggest that poverty, extreme poverty and unemployment will affect millions more people this year.

Migrants are particularly vulnerable as they are not covered by national social protection programs which provide a safety net in times of crisis. The most recent U.N. World Food Programme survey found that 7 out of 10 migrants in these three countries were worried about feeding themselves and their families, a substantial increase compared to previous assessments. The proportion of migrants who only had one meal or did not eat the day before the interview increased 2.5 times compared to the pre-coronavirus period.

“To halt the increase in poverty and hunger for migrants and other vulnerable groups, we need lasting solutions. It is important to incorporate migrants and other groups into national social protection programs as the Government of Colombia has started doing with our support. For this we count on the support of our international partners and of financial institutions,” added Barreto.

To cope with the growing wave of hunger, the U.N. World Food Programme needs an additional $328 million in 2020 to reach 3.5 million people who have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean. To assist vulnerable Venezuelan migrants in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, the U.N. World Food Programme requires $120 million of the total figure.

Additional information for journalists:

In Colombia, the U.N. World Food Programme is assisting nearly 400,000 people a month with cash-based transfers or food rations, including migrants, members of indigenous communities, victims of armed violence, children in school feeding programs, and people affected by COVID-19. The U.N. World Food Programme plans to assist an additional 550,000 people, subject to the availability of funds, to support and complement national crisis response efforts.

In Ecuador, the U.N. World Food Programme provides vouchers to a monthly average of 96,000 migrants and, due to the crisis, has extended their duration from April to June for 20,000 families. In addition, the U.N. World Food Programme assists about 250 Ecuadorian returnees a month in temporary community kitchens in Pichincha province, and plans to assist 5,000 people in shelters and community kitchens during the pandemic.

In Peru, the U.N. World Food Programme is providing logistical support to the government to deliver nearly 240,000 food kits to vulnerable households in Lima and Callao, and food baskets to 20,000 families quarantining at home in 23 regions of the country. The U.N. World Food Programme also plans cash transfers for 98,000 vulnerable people, including migrants, who do not benefit from national social protection programs.

*The regional projection has been calculated for 11 countries where the U.N. World Food Programme has a presence and for small developing states in the Caribbean. The figure includes 1.9 million Venezuelan migrants in moderate and severe food insecurity in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

**As per the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)

Remote survey report on the impact of COVID-19 on market access, food security and livelihoods


The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies, building prosperity and supporting a sustainable future for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

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A Legacy of War

A 2016 peace agreement put an end to almost six decades of conflict in Colombia – and opened up new possibilities for WFP to tackle hunger. But devastating challenges of inequality and hunger linger.

The Colombian conflict left hundreds of thousands of people dead and displaced millions. Ethnic minorities – including indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities – in former conflict zones are paying a heavy price for years of marginalization.


Colombians displaced by war


Nearly 2 million Venezuelans have taken refugee in neighboring Colombia


of the population is facing poor or borderline food consumption

young Colombian girl in yellow, blue and red dress

A people left Behind

In 2016, a peace agreement between the Government of Colombia and the country’s main armed opposition group, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) put an end to almost six decades of conflict. While other armed groups still operate in the country, this agreement opened up new possibilities for us to tackle – in partnership with the Government, international cooperation agencies and other actors including the private sector – the outstanding challenges of inequality and malnutrition and to build the resilience of community’s long cut-off by armed activities. 

The conflict left hundreds of thousands of people dead, displaced millions and was characterized by widespread human rights violations – including disappearances, sexual and gender violence, recruitment of children and land grabbing – illicit economies and environmental damage. It has deeply permeated the country’s social, economic and political fabric, and its legacy will pose serious challenges for the implementation of the peace agreements and the achievement of development goals.

While Colombia is classified as an upper middle income country, it ranks second in the region – and seventh in the world – for income inequality. Extreme poverty is still present, affecting disproportionately certain regions and types of population. In particular, ethnic minorities – including indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities – in former conflict zones are paying a heavy price for years of marginalization. Coastal regions present the most severe deficiencies, with the Caribbean department of La Guajira reaching a peak of 90 percent of rural population with unsatisfied basic needs.

WFP’s Work in Colombia

Our activities in Colombia concentrate on the most vulnerable populations, including victims of violence, marginalized communities and ethnic groups.  The aim is to rebuild and strengthen their livelihoods

Capacity Strengthening

WFP provides local public and private institutions with technical support for the development of policies and the design, delivery and evaluation of programs to address malnutrition and food insecurity, with a special focus on former conflict areas. It also encourages South-South cooperation to strengthen capacities in disaster risk reduction and the implementation of social programs.

Food Security

We work with victims of violence – including internally displaced people and returnees – and vulnerable populations to ensure they have adequate access to nutritious, varied food at all times. Children at risk of recruitment – especially in remote rural boarding schools – or affected by displacement are supported through a school meals program designed to build local ownership and linked to local production, in particular from women’s associations.


We also promote nutrition-related trainings and communication campaigns tailored to address the gender and age of recipients. Local governments receive support to prevent malnutrition with special attention to the first three years of life and a focus on pregnant and nursing women, adolescent girls and children under five.

Support for Farmers

To enhance the production and marketing capacities of smallholder farmers, we’re providing training to ensure they meet demand requirements (including quality standards, stability in quantities, addition of value to raw products, use of native species and environmentally sound agricultural practices) and promoting efficient procurement models that link smallholder production with public and private markets.

Resilience & Livelihoods

Integrated actions support community-based, inclusive and sustainable natural resource management and adaptation to climate change measures, building on the analysis of climate trends and forecasts. Activities build resilience, using incentives such as food transfers or CBT, to recover ancestral practices and traditional knowledge, and improve dietary diversity and rebuild livelihoods.

Help Save Lives by Sending Food

You can help deliver food to vulnerable populations in Columbia and other countries by donating to WFP.

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