5 ways WFP is responding to the migrant crisis in Colombia

Unemployment, violence and structural poverty — especially among rural indigenous communities — are affecting the border region

Diego Alvarez
World Food Programme Insight
4 min readAug 23, 2018


WFP launched its food assistance operation to address the Venezuelan migrant crisis in Colombia in April 2018. Photo: WFP/Archive

Migrants from Venezuela (Venezuelans, Colombian returnees and mixed families) have crossed in droves into Colombian soil due to the lack of food, medicine, safety and basic services at home. According to Immigration authorities, close to 1 million Venezuelans have settled in Colombia in search for a better life.

At the request of the Colombian Government, in April of this year, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) launched a humanitarian operation to provide food assistance to the increasing numbers of migrants in the departments of Arauca, La Guajira and Norte de Santander, located on the Colombian-Venezuelan border. Operations have now expanded to Nariño, a department on Venezuela’s border with Ecuador.

WFP is supporting migrant families that have left Venezuela in five key ways:

1. Providing hot meals

This community kitchen, managed by the Catholic Church, provides a daily breakfast and lunch to hundreds of migrants in the neighborhood of La Parada (The Stop), city of Cúcuta. Photo: WFP/Deivid Torrado

Migrants who stop by transit stations after crossing the border or wait in line at community kitchens receive breakfast and lunch. WFP is supporting the Catholic Church and other social organizations that provide hot meals, especially to women, children, senior citizens and people with disabilities. Currently, WFP is supporting 22 community kitchens in the four departments, and hopes to expand coverage to another 20. Some 33,000 people have received hot meals since the beginning of the operation.

2. Giving pre-paid cards

Zoraida Moreno shows the pre-paid cards she received from WFP, which she will exchange for food for her family. Photo: WFP/Darío Lopera

Migrant families living in temporary shelters or informal settlements are receiving pre-paid cards valued at US$ 34 (or 96,000 Colombian pesos) that they can exchange for food and other basic need items at local shops that have been previously selected by WFP. Purchasing alcohol, cigarettes, clothes, paper products and electric appliances is prohibited. To date, some 19,550 people have received pre-paid cards.

3. Support to indigenous communities

Rita Uriana lives in the Wayúu community in Kamusichipa, La Guajira department. Indigenous communities like Uriana’s, near the Colombian-Venezuela border, are not prepared to manage or absorb the increasing flow of migrants. Photo: WFP/Juan Trillos

The Wayúu indigenous communities in La Guajira are welcoming a growing number of migrants and indigenous returnees from Venezuela. These small communities, however, are not prepared to manage or absorb the newcomers. In August, WFP will launch emergency food distributions and activities that will promote integration and peace among migrants and host families.

4. Nutritional supplements for children between the ages of 6 and 59 months

Migrants of all ages go to community kitchens to receive breakfast, lunch or both meals. Photo: WFP/Deivid Torrado

Migrants are vulnerable. This is especially true of children, who are at a high risk of suffering from malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies. This can result in acute malnutrition and other chronic illnesses. WFP and the Government of Colombia are exploring the possibility of providing nutritional supplements to young migrants.

5. Support to school meals in La Guajira

The expansion of the current school feeding programme in La Guajira will provide an additional 30,000 meals to feed migrant school children until the end of the year. Photos: WFP/Juan Trillos

School meals can meet the nutritional needs of children, and help keep them in the classroom. This is particularly true in times of crisis. In La Guajira, WFP is supporting the growing school feeding programme for Venezuelan migrants and Colombian returnees. The goal is to provide 30,000 school meals until the end of the year so the children remain in school.

This humanitarian response is possible thanks to the support of the Government of the United States of America, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and the private sector. Collectively, they have provided US$ 21 million of the US$ 43.8 million WFP needs to provide food assistance to migrants until the end of 2018.

Learn more about WFP’s response to the migrant crisis.



Diego Alvarez
World Food Programme Insight

Comunicador Social con experiencia en alianzas estratégicas.