The Dire Situation in La Guajira, Colombia: 20,000 Children at Risk of Malnutrition

September, 2019 – Lawyers for the indigenous Wayúu people of La Guajira, Colombia, have turned to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights as a last resort for the survival of their community. Because the Colombian government has failed to comply with the measures that were previously ordered to protect children, nursing mothers, and senior citizens by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Wayúu are now appealing to the Inter-American Court to solve this humanitarian crisis.

In October 2018 alone, 41 Wayúu children died because of malnutrition and lack of drinking water. The maternal mortality rate of indigenous women is three times that of other Colombian women, while 20,000 children under five in La Guajira are at risk of malnutrition. The situation has also continued to worsen for the Wayúu people in La Guajira due to an influx of more Wayúu natives from Venezuela.

Why is this happening? A major cause of the problem stems from government’s decision to build the Cercado Dam in 2011, an action which subsequently drained the Rancheria River, the only source of water for the region of La Guajira. Before the dam was built, “It was beautiful here,” said one native of the area. “There were crops, flowers, animals. There was life.” Now the Wayúu have no local source of water, and the region is a desert. The nearest wells, which are often contaminated, are more than three hours away on foot. Thus, the government has robbed the Wayúu people of water they need for drinking and farming, yet has done nothing to alleviate the problem.

According to government figures, more than 900,000 people live in La Guajira region of Colombia. As quoted in the Bogotá Post, an estimated 14,000 children, adolescents, expectant mothers and the elderly have died since 2006 due to conditions connected with malnutrition. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if these desperate, determined people had access to aquaponics in order to raise vegetables for their families, using only trace amounts of water?

For more information about the current plight of the Wayúu, please visit:

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