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Ortensia Ipuana wakes up every morning in her dusty shack with her children and grandchildren and heads to El Basurero, a sprawling, stinking garbage dump on the outskirts of Uribia, Colombia’s largest urban indigenous hub. Ipuana is of Wayuu ethnicity, like the vast majority of those in the area, and has little time to care about peace deals between the government and guerrilla groups.
A peace agreement signed in November 2016 between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, had promised to bring development to the Andean nation’s far-flung corners, which had long been ignored during 52 years of bitter conflict. For the Wayuu and other marginalised communities and ethnic groups, though, peace looks much the same as war.
"We’re here everyday, fighting to stay alive,” Ipuana said, sifting through piles of trash strewn across the desert floor. She is able to sell one kilo of plastic for 500 Colombian pesos, approximately $0.18. “We haven’t seen a decent rain shower in years and our children are dying,” she said. Official figures suggest that at least 193 indigenous children aged under 5 died in the province due to malnutrition between 2013 and 2017. Local NGOs and Wayuu leaders say the number is likely much higher.
“You do not build peace by shutting down an armed group. You do it by shutting down inequality.”
OCHA’s latest report claims that that there are 4.9 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Colombia, a country with a population of 49 million and an estimated Gini coefficient — a measure of inequality — of 51.1. Malnutrition rates present a troubling dynamic, with chronic malnutrition in children under 5 in decline, while acute malnutrition — meaning the life of the child is in imminent danger — is rising.
Read more into the fight for peace in Colombia by Joe Parkin Daniels at Devex