Five Indigenous children have died of malnutrition in less than a week in Colombia’s remote coastal department of La Guajira, bringing the toll of the avoidable cause of death to 81 this year alone and raising further alarm about the food security crisis plaguing the Wayuu Indigenous people in the area.
Child Malnutrition Deaths Triple in Colombia's Guajira
“The number of children killed by this cause increases every hour,” Javier Rojas, director of the Shipia Wayuu Association, told local media, criticizing the lack of concrete action by authorities to address the ongoing challenges of food and water shortages in the region.
According to Rojas, three children died on Saturday after another two died on Tuesday and Friday, all of malnutrition. The five children were all under two years old.
The Wayuu Indigenous people have be clamoring for months to pressure the Colombian government to respond to their demands for support in improving public health and children’s rights in La Guajira. Human rights groups and Indigenous leader in the area have warned that the crisis could threaten the survival of the Wayuu people.
According to a report published earlier this year, 4,770 Indigenous children have died of hunger in La Guajira in the past decade, while another report found that up to 15,000 children in La Guajira continue suffering chronic malnutrition today in the face of a lack of basic necessities.
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Indigenous leaders of the Wayuu people filed a lawsuit last year against the Colombian government for neglect their communities. As a result, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ordered Colombia to implement special measures to address the crisis, including the chronic lack of clean water and basic health services, and protect the Wayuu people’s survival.
But one year on from the breakthrough IACHR directive to the government aimed at improving the quality of life for Indigenous people in La Guajira and slashing the soaring infant mortality rate, leaders warn that their community continues to suffer while the government has little to show for its promises.
“A day before we mark one year since they granted the measures to protect the rights of Wayuu minors, we continue burying our children,” said Rojas. “There has not been any definitive action on the protection of minors.”
According to official statistics, more than two thirds of the population in La Guajira suffer from their basic needs not being fully satisfied.