Colombia hostilities disrupt 250,000 children’s lives since 2013

UNITED NATIONS, United States: Hostilities in Colombia have displaced or otherwise disrupted the lives of more than 250,000 children since peace talks began three years ago, the United Nations children’s agency said on Sunday.

Among them, almost 300 children were killed or injured and some 1,000 recruited or otherwise exploited by non-state armed groups during the talks between the government and the left-wing FARC rebels, according to a report by UNICEF released three days before a deadline for a final deal both sides say will probably pass unmet.

“As peace negotiations to end half a century of war in Colombia continue, it is crucial to make children’s interests and protection a priority,” Roberto De Bernardi, UNICEF representative in Colombia, said in a statement. “No child in Colombia today knows what it is like to live in a country at peace.”

The government’s peace talks with the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels are aimed at ending five decades of conflict, which has also involved right-wing paramilitary groups.

Although a settlement is expected soon, the talks have stumbled over the details of an eventual truce, negotiators said last week. The peace talks have helped reduce the number of children killed, injured and displaced by roughly half, UNICEF said.

However, widespread violence has continued to disrupt lives, the agency added. More than 230,000 children have been displaced, at least 75 killed and 180 injured by fighting, the report said. Landmines and unexploded ordnance have killed or injured another 130 children, it added. AFP