Colombia: Impact of armed conflict on children and young people (31 March 2022) – Colombia


According to the Colombian Victims Unit, between 1985 and 2021, the armed conflict in the country has affected more than two million children and young people, including through displacement, confinement, recruitment, abuse and sexual violence. (COALICO 2021; UN SC 08/12/2021). Although violence decreased after the demobilization of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARCEP) in 2016, attempts by other armed groups to seize the power vacuum in areas previously dominated by the FARC-EP have increased levels of conflict. Between 2020 and 2021, there has been a staggering 88% increase (from 12,481 to 23,465) in the number of children and young people affected by conflict (COALICO 2020 and 2021). Displacement affected approximately 13,000 children among those affected by the conflict in 2021 (OCHA 08/02/2022; COALICO 2021). The number of children and adolescents recruited into armed groups to bolster their ranks has also increased (InSight Crime 15/04/2021).

The marked increase in conflicts in the departments close to the Pacific coast (Cauca, Chocó, Nariño, Valle del Cauca) and the border with Venezuela (Arauca, Norte de Santander, Vichada) has, in turn, increased the cases of displacement and confinement. Between January 1 and March 17, 2022, the number of people affected by lockdown and displacement doubled compared to the same period in 2021. The first two and a half months of 2022 saw 44% more people affected than in total 2021 (OCHA consulted on 03/17/2021. It is very likely that the number of children affected by conflict will increase in 2022.

Key messages

  • Armed conflict affects all aspects of the lives of children and young people, making it difficult for them to access education, health services and livelihoods.

  • Conflict exposes children and young people to long-term or lifelong physical and mental health effects.

  • Available figures on children and youth affected by armed conflict are likely under-reported due to threats, fear of reprisals from armed groups, lack of awareness of protection services and long distances to urban centers to report cases.

  • The recent increase in violence in Colombia is likely to increase the number of children and young people affected.