Vi er i Colombia

Vi er i Colombia

A country rebuilding after decades of conflict

Children in the care of SOS Children’s Villages and their SOS mother (photo: SOS archives).

The Republic of Colombia, in the north-west of South America is home to roughly 48 million people, the country has the third largest Spanish-speaking population worldwide after Mexico and Spain.

For over fifty years, Colombia was marked by a complex and violent internal conflict. Over seven million people were displaced and an estimated 250,000 were killed. At the end of 2016, the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) marked an end to the fighting. This was seen as a first step to bring stability to the country.

In spite of the conflict, Colombia has seen significant economic growth in recent years; however, the income and wealth distribution remains highly unequal. Nearly 28 per cent of the population lives in poverty. Living conditions in rural and urban areas of the country differ significantly: in rural areas, over 35 per cent of the people lack access to clean water and proper sanitation. There is limited access to medical and educational services. In bigger cities, the situation is, in general terms, notably better. However some neighbourhoods in big cities, especially those where migrants first settle, are lacking basic public services.

Supporting refugees from neighbouring Venezuela

The political situation in Venezuela has resulted in many people seeking protection in Colombia. At the end of 2017, the Colombia Migration Office estimated that over 550,000 Venezuelans were living in the country. Additionally, there are thousands of people who cross the border daily to buy food, to work and receive health care – they then return to Venezuela at the end of the day.

Refugees live in a precarious legal situation, often in inadequate shelters, and struggle to find food and water. Children and young people – especially those who arrive on their own – are among the most vulnerable.

Children at risk due to violence and poverty

In spite of some recent improvements, Colombia's 18 million children are in need of further protection. The decades of armed conflict affected children and young people: many childhoods were marked by upheaval and insecurity.

According to some reports, one in three children lives in poverty. Approximately eight per cent of children are forced to work. The majority of them do not go to school.  

Abuse and mistreatment of children is an issue that needs addressing: two children are killed and three are abandoned every day, according to the Institute of Legal Medicine.

SOS Children's Villages in Colombia