Armed conflict in Colombia has been going on for a long time and the use of child soldiers has been one of the more heartbreaking by-products.

According a Save the Children fact sheet from 2008:

For more than 40 years Colombia has suffered from civil war, poverty, insecurity, corruption and drug trafficking. Of its 45 million people, 40% are children. Children are constant targets of the conflict, either directly when they are murdered, kidnapped, tortured, or forced to fight, or indirectly when they lose their families, homes and access to education and health services.

General:  Colombia is marked by sharp socio-economic inequalities. With a GINI coefficient [1] of 0.575 it finds itself amongst the most unequal societies worldwide. 64% of the population lives below the national poverty line (World Bank). More than 4 million people, 9% of its population, have been forcibly displaced since 1985 due to its civil war, making it the second biggest internally displaced population after Sudan.

This displacement has also made Colombia the most serious and persistent humanitarian crisis outside Africa (CODHES).

Protection:  There are currently between an estimated 11,000 and 14,000 child soldiers in Colombia serving for both guerrilla and paramilitary groups.  This places Colombia third in the world for reliance on child soldiers, following Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Congo. At least one in every four irregular combatants in Colombia’s civil war is under eighteen years old (Human Rights Watch).

In this candid and fascinating podcast, Pj and guest Ines Marchand talk about Colombia and Ines’ healing work with people on both side of the conflict:  child soldiers and their victims.