There are between 8,000 and 14,000 children involved in Colombia’s ongoing conflict, working for gangs and armed groups, according to figures released by an NGO on Friday to mark theInternational Day against the Use of Child Soldiers.
The Humanitarian Diplomatic Mission, a Medellin-based NGO, released a report which says that Colombia has the fourth-highest number of child soldiers in the world, behind Burma, Sudan, and Congo.
“In the last two years, the conflict in Colombia has changed, and there are now children in the intermediate structures of these armed groups doing intelligence work and drug trafficking,” the report says.
The report found that there are children as young as six who are already involved in the conflict, either carrying arms or doing intelligence work.
The level of violence against children in Colombia is “very high,” according to the report. Sergio Tapia, the NGO’s president, told Caracol Radio “We suspect that 10% of victims of paramilitaries are children,” and that thousands of these deaths have not been reported to the authorities.
The International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers is held on February 12 to commemorate the UN protocol which came into force on that date in 2002, which banned the recrutiment of minors under the age of 18 into armed groups.
The report supports remarks made by Vice President Santos on Wednesday, in which he called the FARC’s recruitment of minors “a disgrace,” and express the government’s are very concerned about this phenomenon, the recruitment of children.