Colombian authorities say 328 child soldiers have demobilized from illegal armed groups so far this year.
Elvira Forero, director of the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar) or ICBF, told Congress that 85 percent of the children who demobilized are boys and the remainder are girls. The agency is currently handling the cases of about 500 children once involved in the country’s civil conflict. The majority are recruited to the ranks of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) and the National Liberation Army (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional – ELN).
According to the agency, child recruitment remains a particularly acute problem in Colombia’s conflict zones, including the Pacific department of Choco and the southern border departments of Putumayo, Narino and Cauca. The FARC have also been known to recruit youths in Ecuador.
According to the 2008 Child Soldiers Global Report, the FARC and ELN routinely recruit children to serve as soldiers, informants and as logistical support. Last year, the FARC were accused of paying a child 1,000 pesos (about 50 cents) to carry a bomb in El Charco, Nariño which later detonated.