Colombia

Enabling children to build resilience and fulfil their potential - free from trauma and violence

Facts and figures

  • Total population: 45.500.000
  • Total population under 18: 14.105.000
  • Children affected by conflict: 1.423.296
  • Number of War Child projects in 2019: Five
  • Number of implementing partner organisations: Three
  • Number of partners providing funding: Three
  • Total child participants: 5,743(2,767 girls and 2,976 boys)
  • Total adult participants: 1,544 (925 women and 619 men)

National Situation

Significant steps have been taken in recent years to end Colombia's decades-long internal conflict. The signing of the Peace Agreement in November of 2016 between the government and the revolutionary armed group FARC was an event welcomed by the international and national community.

However, the implementation of the peace accords is proceeding slowly and there is intense expectation with regard to future developments under the new Government and Congress. They have expressed a critical position over what was agreed in Havana.

Separate peace negotiations with the National Liberation Army (ELN) - the country’s second-largest guerrilla group - broke down after several breaches of its ceasefire. Right wing paramilitaries remain active in many parts of the country and FARC dissidents continue to battle government armed forces.

This uncertainty has seen criminal groups move to occupy territory vacated by the FARC - further fuelling the country’s war against illegal economies, including cocaine production, human trafficking and illegal mining.

Colombia remains the country with the largest population of internally displaced people in the world - 7.4 million people remain forced from their homes, according to figures from UNHCR.

Edwin learned to overcome his fears in our project 'Con Paz Aprendemos Mas'.

Situation of Children

Despite the various peace initiatives of recent years, children and youth in Colombia continue to face a number of significant threats to their safety.

The risk of recruitment into armed groups still active in the country persists. Although it is impossible to know how many children are forced to participate in armed conflict, official figures estimate that the FARC alone recruited at least 11,000 children and young people into its ranks between 1972 and 2014. These children are recruited for purposes including information gathering, surveillance and direct involvement in hostilities.

Sexual and gender-based violence is another critical danger to youth. Armed groups and criminal gangs in Colombia use sexual exploitation and the threat of abuse as a means of exercising social control in their areas of influence. The majority of victims are female - including an increasing number of girls between the ages of ten and 14.

The production of illegal drugs and illegal gold mining operations sees many children forced into difficult and dangerous forms of labour. Children and youth involved in the drugs trade typically work as plantation workers or drug couriers - posing a threat to their physical safety.

What We Do

War Child Holland works inside Colombia to improve children’s psychosocial wellbeing and strengthen their capacity to cope with the violence they experience. Together with parents and caregivers, teachers and children taking part in our programmes, we work to boost protection mechanisms and prevent the recruitment and use of children by armed groups.

We also work with schools in the country to ensure vulnerable children have a protective and safe learning environment. Psychosocial support, education and measures to boost children’s participation in local decision-making processes are frequently combined to ensure our interventions are as effective as possible.

“After joining War Child's activities, I have personally made a lot of changes. I have learned to live together with others without fighting."
Jorge from Colombia

Our Projects

Building a Better Future Together

Project designed to facilitate the reintegration of former child soldiers and establish community-based child protection structures. The project is being implemented in two of the regions of Colombia most affected by violence - Cauca and Chocó.

Peace Circus

This Peace education initiative focuses on the reduction of discrimination as a manifestation of violence within the educational communities of the northern Putumayo. This strategy involves work in the classroom, at the institutional and community level around gender, ethnicity, disability and nationality.

The Circus is the place in which children and teachers embrace peace through creativity, visual arts, acrobatics, theatre, music, dance, among others, and present their peace initiatives to transform their community.

Connectivity and e-Learning Hubs

Initiative to empower vulnerable youth through the use of ICT for life-skills training, vocational education and employment skills development. The project is being implemented in Ciudad Bolivar, Bogota, one of the zones with the highest number of displaced people and urban violence in the Colombian capital.

Psychosocial Support and Child Protection for Venezuelan Migrants and Colombian Host Communities

This Project is a response to Venezuela's migration crisis in Bogotá, Colombia. It´s objective is to improve the protection and well-being of Venezuelan and Colombian children and parents and/or caregivers in Bogotá affected by the migration crisis. War child will support children and parents and/or caregivers with rapid assistance in psychosocial support and child protection.

Child Protection in Chocó

Aimed at improving the protection and prevention of recruitment of children and youth in Chocó by the use of free time and strengthening of protection mechanisms.

Kinderen in Colombia recht op onderwijs War Child

In Colombia we work with schools in the country to ensure vulnerable children have a protective and safe learning environment

Photo: War Child

Voices of Children

A Second Chance

Jorge is just one of the millions of young people in Colombia who are forced to deal with the effects of violence and intimidation on a daily basis.

Jorge believes he is lucky to be alive following his recruitment into an armed group when he was just 13. “If the group that I was with hadn’t held me back, I would probably have been killed,” he remembers.

“They killed my best friend in front of me. I’ll never be able to forget it.”

Jorge was eventually free from the armed group - and soon joined War Child’s activities. He learned to reject violence and aggression and begin to deal with his emotions.

“I have personally made a lot of changes,” Jorge says. “One of them is that I have learned to live together with others and be together without fighting.”

“It is a very big opportunity that I have been given. I am very grateful and will be for the rest of my life.”