Colombia has 52 million inhabitants and a rich cultural heritage and biodiversity. But, for more than 50 years, the country was marked by an internal conflict that displaced 8 million people and killed an estimated 250,000. In 2016, the peace agreement between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) brought an end to the fighting.
But wealth remains unevenly distributed, and 43% of Colombians live in poverty. And although violence declined after 2016, insurgencies by armed groups continue.
SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it, in Colombia since 1987.
Following the demobilization of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2016, other rebel groups have attempted to take power, leading to an increase in conflict. Between 2020 and 2021, the number of children and young under 18 affected by conflict increased by 88%. More children and youth are also being recruited by armed groups.
Armed conflict impacts every aspect of their lives. It makes it difficult for them to access education and health services, and exposes them to long-term physical and mental health damage.
Around 23% of Colombian women aged 20 to 24 years old were married, or in a union, before they turned 18, and 5% before the age of 15. This is a fundamental violation of human rights. Child marriage often leads to early pregnancies and social isolation. It interrupts a girl’s education and makes her more vulnerable to intimate partner violence. This practice is a direct manifestation of gender inequality and particularly affects girls and adolescents from low-income rural families.
Because of the political situation in neighbouring Venezuela, more than 6 million refugees have left since 2016, with 30% of them seeking protection in Colombia. Thousands also cross the border daily to buy food, work and obtain health care before returning to Venezuela at the end of the day.
Refugees live in uncertain situations and children, especially those who came on their own, are among the most vulnerable. In fact, two-thirds of the children of Venezuelan migrants are not enrolled in school.