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Two Children Dead as Fresh Wave of Violence Hits Colombia

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (Jan. 23, 2022) – Two children were among 25 people killed and at least 88 families displaced in a recent spike in violence in the Arauca Region of Colombia, says Save the Children.

The children were caught up in two massacres, which took place in the first week of January. While authorities and family members have confirmed the deaths, whether the children were directly targeted or caught in the crossfire is unclear. 

These latest deaths reflect an upsurge of the conflict in Colombia, which included 96 massacres in 2021 and 91 massacres in 2020.

Save the Children is gravely concerned for the well-being of an estimated 170 children who have now been displaced with their families across the region. Local media have reported finding children hiding for days to avoid being taken to war. In other cases, families have reported sending their children away, alone; to other villages and towns in the hope, they will find some safety. 

Children are one of the most vulnerable groups in the conflict in Colombia, along with ethnic minorities, and there are reports of children being shot, threatened, and forced into hiding for fear of being recruited or executed by armed groups. In addition, parents are not sending their children to schools due to the fear of recruitment and the insecurity to move around safely; this puts more children behind in their education.

In the Cauca region, at the other end of the country, violence is also rising. The murder of Breiner David Cucuñame, a 14-year-old Indigenous environmentalist activist, who was shot last Friday by an armed group, is the latest example of children being targeted by the armed groups. 

María Paula Martínez, Executive Director of Save the Children Colombia, said:

“This is the latest in a long stream of blood being shed by children in Colombia. The escalation of violence in the country does not discriminate based on social conditions or geographical location. We grieve with these children’s families and communities and call for those who are stealing childhoods across the country to cease these abhorrent activities and leave the children alone.

“The armed groups are taking advantage of the lack of state control on the border, the influx of migrants and refugees, and internally displaced communities to create an economy of forced recruitment and trafficking of children and adults. The risk of forced recruitment by armed groups is particularly high, and once a child is exposed to the horrors of war, it can be very hard for them to recover”.

“Once again, fear, anxiety, homicides, threats, illegal detentions, and massive displacements are taking over the country. We urge all parties and the authorities in the territory to respect humanitarian action and prioritize children as they work to resolve this crisis”.

Save the Children Colombian has provided 600 hygiene kits to children and their families in the Arauca region in Colombia. The organization has also provided psychosocial care for 32 displaced children in coordination with other organizations and has established a consortium with World Vision, supported by a Stat Fund, to respond to the emergency in the coming weeks. 

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