Children are the primary victims of Colombia’s armed conflict, according to the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF).
In recognition of the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression, the ICBF released figures Sunday relating to the maltreatment of children in Colombia, with a particular focus on the detrimental effects of the armed conflict.
According to the ICBF, there have been 17,022 cases of maltreatment of children and adolescents so far in 2012, 111 of whom were threatened by armed groups.
“It is painful that many children and adolescents have been caught at an early age in the world of war, and that there have been a series of affectations to development and construction of their life plan,” said the director of the ICBF, Diego Molano.
The ICBF revealed some disturbing information about the use of child soliders in the conflict.
Since 1999 the Program of Care for Children and Armed Conflict has registered 4,910 demobilized children and adolescents, 3,547 of which were boys and 1,363 girls.
Many human rights groups estimate that as many as 11,000 to 14,000 children have been forcefully recruited into the conflict.
“Armed groups outside the law must stop this harmful practice and violations of all rights,” said Molano. “For Colombia and the ICBF, they should not have even one child enrolled. That is intolerable,” he added.
The ICBF also reported that children have been victims of landmines, forced displacement, sexual abuse and child labor.
According to the ICBF, the Program for Comprehensive Action against Antipersonnel Mines recorded 35 cases of children affected by landmines in 2011, approximately 10% of the total affected population.
Molano called on all Colombians to take action against the abuse of children because “passivity, inactivity and indifference, are weapons that benefit the conflict and hurt families.”