The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) ordered Colombia to take action against extreme poverty in northern Colombia where more than 4,000 indigenous children have died of malnutrition in the past eight years.
The human rights body of the Organization of American States granted protection measures for the Wayuu indigenous community in Colombia’s most northern province, La Guajira, that has suffered greatly due to the absence of potable water, the main cause of child malnutrition in the region.
The IACHR slammed the Colombian government’s lack of commitment to the plight of the Wayuu people of whom more than 1 in 10 is malnourished, according to a national health survey.
Stories about the alarming number of child deaths in the neglected desert region have been reported for years, but an adequate government response stayed away.
To force the government to act, indigenous representatives took to the international body, which urged the government to “take immediate steps to ensure that the beneficiary communities, as soon as possible, have access to drinking water and food of the sufficient quality and quantity.”
Additionally, the IACHR told the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos to “secure the availability, accessibility and quality of health services, with a culturally appropriate and comprehensive approach, in order to address child malnutrition.”
According to the government, it has been helping the communities, attending an impressive 700,000 of the department’s 900,000 inhabitants.
However, former Guajira Governor and ex-Senator Jorge Ballesteros told Colombia Reports that only only around 30% of allocated aid resources actually reach the desert communities.
The former senator, whose son was elected governor of the province last year, said that corruption in the allocation of government resources plays a heavy role in the ongoing crisis.
Community leaders, activists, and indigenous authorities insist that the local government is “stealing” money meant for basic needs, such as electricity and water.