Colombia: Intervention to help child victims of the armed conflict
In this context of organised crime, the daily life of people living in the district of Cordoba is becoming ever-more difficult, not to say dangerous, compelling many Colombians to leave their homes. Terre des hommes (Tdh) has set up a new project to aid the children who have been victims of the conflict in all its forms: being recruited by the armed bands, forced displacement, sexual abuse, not to mention the lack of schooling. The project also proposes to give psychosocial responses to the youngsters affected by the conflict, and to fight against the malnutrition of children under 5.
The aim of this part of the project is to improve the health conditions of the children and their families by reducing child malnutrition, by keeping a close eye on expectant mothers and by improving the practice of hygiene and the access to drinking water for everyone.
In order to do this, 120 community agents (mainly mothers) will be given training so they can bring help to their own communities. They can intervene on questions about a balanced diet and on the prevention of infant diseases; they can promote good practices of hygiene; and refer sick women and children to the appropriate health centres.
During the first eight months of 2012, 82 babies suffering from malnutrition were identified and referred to the Colombian Institute for Family Wellbeing (ICBF). At the end of August, 153 members of the community started their training on nutrition and most common childish illnesses.
At such a time, armed groups profit from the poverty, discrimination and the lack of education to enrol children as spies, traffickers or as child soldiers. Terre des hommes is fighting to strengthen the mechanisms to protect children.
There are no fewer than 120 community workers (the parents of pupils and teachers) who will be given training on strengthening the protection of children. From this angle of training, Tdh is also organising courses for professionals working with children.
During the first half of 2012, 15 youngsters, at risk of being subjected to violence or having already been abused, were identified and have since benefited from the appropriate care.
The prevention of emergencies
On top of the armed conflicts, the Cordoba area is chronically confronted by natural disasters, in particular flooding. Tdh offers its help to the communities where it works, first and foremost to school establishments, so they can be prepared to react correctly whenever a disaster occurs.
In practice, this means developing mechanisms of protection, including a plan for emergency management. The target is to minimise internal displacement caused by a natural disaster. These actions are run in collaboration with the Colombian Civil Defence and the Colombian Red Cross.
To date, Tdh and the Civil Defence have started to give training courses on the best way to coordinate all the efforts for disaster prevention. In June 2012, the quarter of Villa Jimenez was severely flooded, and up to October 2012 its populace received direct emergency aid.
In the long term
All the activities described in this project have the purpose of strengthening the confidence and know-how of the Colombian communities by a participative procedure, in which the sharing of knowledge and experience play a predominant role. The communities can in this way take charge themselves, and the synergies created with the various parties will contribute to offering a long-lasting solution to the problems of the child victims of the Colombian armed conflict.