More than 12,000 children were victims of paramilitary and other armed groups in 2020, according to new findings by the Coalico organisation which investigates the impact of conflict on minors. The majority of victims were concentrated in rural zones, with indigenous and African-Colombian children disproportionately vulnerable to the activity of armed groups. Poor social conditions, domestic violence and the pandemic were contributing factors in heightening the risks for children and minors.
The alarming number includes 222 minors who were forcibly recruited into the ranks of armed groups, a practice which continued despite multiple warnings from social organisations. Children were being used to charge extorsions, traffic weapons or drugs and act as informants. Those who refused to work for armed groups reportedly faced death threats.
According to Coalico, last year more than 5,742 children were victims of forced displacement and 5,441 were denied access to essential goods and services due to forced confinement or restriction of movements. Children were affected in around two-thirds of registered incidents of conflict (197 instances from a total of 298 cases). Antioquia saw the most conflict-related incidents affecting people under the age of 18.