Woman with two children sitting on floor with blankets

Since our work in Colombia began in 2006, we have been able to connect thousands of Colombians and Venezuelan refugees alike with the goods and services they need most. In 2017, we reached about 69,300 people.

The context

Colombia has a population of 49 million people — around 10 percent of those people are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. The people of Colombia have been living with conflict since the 1960s, with non-government actors, drug traffickers and the military fighting for control.

7.7 million Colombians remain internally displaced after decades of this armed conflict. Many come from marginalized, rural, indigenous and Afro-Colombian populations, unable to meet even their most basic needs. About 250,000 Colombians who were long-term residents of Venezuela have returned in recent months.

Despite a 2016 peace agreement with one armed group, drug trafficking, violence and displacement continue. A power vacuum left by that group has enabled other armed groups to move into areas hosting large numbers of displaced people and other vulnerable populations. This has led to increased killings of rural leaders, human rights workers and others, forced recruitment and new spikes in displacement and humanitarian needs.

Along with its own internal conflict, Colombia has been feeling the impact of conflict in neighboring Venezuela, as refugees cross the border to seek safety, food, medicine and job opportunities in Colombia. More than 3 million people have fled Venezuela over the past few years as the country’s economy, social and government institutions are in turmoil. The crisis in Venezuela is the largest humanitarian crisis in the western hemisphere. As a result of both internal and external conflicts, Colombia has one of the highest populations of displaced persons on the planet. It’s estimated that more than 1 million Venezuelans are currently seeking refuge in Colombia.

Economic opportunities for Colombians where migrants settle were already scarce. Growing competition for jobs and resources is exacerbating numerous challenges that their communities are already facing.

Gender-based violence is also a pressing issue for Colombians. Between 2015 and 2016, incidents of gender-based violence increased by 23 percent. Young girls between ages 10 and 14 are at a higher risk of sexual abuse; reports say that they’re five times more likely to experience sexual abuse than other women and eight times more likely than the remainder of the general public.

In spite of these challenges, the people of Colombia are optimistic and hopeful for a brighter, more stable future. Our work addressing urgent needs through providing cash and medicine, helping children and young people heal from extreme stress, and more is helping forge the path to a stronger tomorrow.

Our team

Mercy corps team member speaking to mother and two children in colombia

The Colombia field team is made up of 76 members and is led by Country Director Hugh Aprile. Out of all 76 members, 72 are native to Colombia and have a unique and personal understanding of the issues facing their country and individual communities.

Our work covers a wide range of issues facing Colombians. We are creating and supporting community systems to protect women and girls. We are providing immediate assistance — through cash distributions — to refugees and displaced populations.

Our impact

Since 2006, our services have reached thousands of people across Colombia and reached almost 70,000 people in 2017 alone. Here are a few of our recent results:

  • Between June and September 2018, we helped more than 2,000 Venezuelan migrants and refugees get medications.
  • We are providing education and skills building to 62,000 children and teens in conflict zones of Colombia.
  • We provided cash, psychosocial and education support to more than 6,000 people affected by the landslides in Mocoa, Putumayo in 2017.
  • We are improving the autonomy and economic empowerment of 1,800 rural women coffee farmers.
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