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Colombia

Four decades of armed conflict between the government and drug-trafficking militias paved the way for a humanitarian crisis that constantly has been threatening the rights of Colombia’s women and children. There has been a high incidence of extrajudicial killings, homicides and massacres of children as a consequence of the armed conflict. Children have been victims of disappearances and social cleansing as a result of the conflict. 

In rural areas there is little access to medical care, education and other social services. There are large gaps in the standard of living and an increasing number of children live in poverty or extreme poverty, with a high percentage of the population in urban areas lacking access to basic services, such as sewage systems coverage and the supply of clean, running water, compared to rural areas. The inequalities in the standard of living present a serious obstacle to the equal enjoyment of the rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. A large part of Colombia's population is displaced and are less likely to have access to safe water and to basic health and educational services. 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. 

Many Colombians remain uninsured in the public health system, amongst them many young children. At the same time, the rate of teenage pregnancies is high. This is putting girls' health at risk and has a detrimental effect on young women’s ability to sustain themselves financially, creating a poverty trap with overall negative effects for society.

The minimum age for marriage is set at 18 years, but 12 years for girls and 14 years for boys with parental consent. Child marriages and early pregnancies have a serious detrimental effect on the health, education and development of the girl child. Widespread discrimination exists towards certain vulnerable groups, such as displaced children, Afro-Colombian and indigenous children and children living in rural and remote areas. Their ability to access education and health facilities is severely reduced by the disproportionate allocation of resources. Such vulnerable groups are at greater risk of recruitment by the armed forces and of becoming the victims of commercial and sexual exploitation, internal displacement and trafficking. The UN Commitee of the Rights of the Child is concerned that the rights of girls and women continue to be violated.

Street children living in the streets in Bogotá, is primarily due to socio-economic factors, internal armed conflict, and abuse and violence within the family. Children are not only vulnerable to youth gang recruitments but also to threats posed in the name of social cleansing. Alcohol and drug abuse is high, especially among street children and there are reports of a rising number of children, victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking, who risk being criminalised. There is also concern about the illegal drug industry using children as coca-leaf pickers (raspachines), or as “mulas”, forcing or luring them into trafficking drugs hidden inside their bodies.

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