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Four decades of armed conflict between the government and drug-trafficking militias have resulted in a humanitarian crisis that constantly threatens the rights of Colombia’s women and children. In rural areas there is little access to medical care, education and other social services.
Issues facing children in Colombia
- Approximately 3 million people (75 per cent of them women and children) have been internally displaced by violence in the past 15 years. In 2004 alone, more than a quarter million people were forced from their homes. Displaced populations have little access to safe water and to basic health and educational services.
- One third of all children are anaemic. Stunting affects 14 per cent of children under age five; 7 per cent of newborns have low birth weight.
- Despite a law prohibiting the use of children under age 18 in the National Army, there are still an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 child soldiers in urban militias and other armed forces.
- Landmine use is increasing, posing significant risks to women and children. Landmines kill at least three people in Colombia each day.
- Native American and Afro-Colombian populations suffer the highest rates of poverty, and are twice as likely to have been affected by violent armed conflict.
- Rates of domestic violence are alarming: Nearly 40 per cent of women have been attacked by their male companions. Sexual abuse of children under age 18 increased 56 per cent between 2000 and 2004.
Activities and results for children
- The National Congress approved Colombia’s first-ever Law for Children, incorporating many recommendations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- UNICEF and its partners provided emergency assistance—food supplements, hygiene kits, schools and shelter—to thousands of people displaced by violence.
- Vaccination rates for most childhood diseases are above 90 per cent.
- As part of the ‘School Going to the Child’ campaign, UNICEF helped build schools in conflict-affected areas, giving thousands of displaced and out-of-school children the chance to resume their education.
- UNICEF and its partners have been demobilizing and reintegrating hundreds of former child soldiers. They are also providing sports and other programmes that give adolescents alternatives to joining armed militias.
- Mine-risk education programmes have shown tens of thousands of children how to avoid landmine-related injuries.
- UNICEF and its partners trained hundreds of teachers to provide psychological support for children traumatized by violence. At an International Meeting on Sex Tourism, strategies were adopted to protect children from sexual exploitation.
- More than 37,000 newborns and 77,000 indigenous or displaced children obtained birth certificates with UNICEF’s help.
- At UNICEF’s urging, 243 municipalities have created solid waste management plans to improve access to safe water and sanitation.