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Colombia's Wayuu: Struggling for clean water

The arid Guajira region straddling the northern-most tip of Colombia and neighbouring Venezuela is home to nearly 300 000 Wayuus – Colombia’s largest indigenous group. La Guajira has not seen proper rains in five years. The extreme drought has worsened under the influence of the El Niño phenomenon, and wells, water points and rivers have either dried up or turned saline. Local communities have great difficulties in finding, accessing and transporting safe drinking water.

In addition, the Wayuu are also affected by malnutrition. Whereas malnutrition-linked fatalities of children under five have decreased all over Colombia, they have significantly increased in La Guajira. The closing of the border by Venezuelan authorities in August 2015 shut down the last routes used to import food and goods, threatening further the Wayuu’s food security and livelihoods.

The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) is supporting emergency interventions by the Red Cross to provide safe water to local communities. The aim is to reduce child morbidity and mortality due to poor or insufficient water, sanitation, hygiene and nutrition, and to help Wayuus get back on their feet. ECHO is also providing additional support for these drought-affected communities through its funding allocated specifically for countries affected by El Niño.

Find out more about humanitarian needs in Colombia.

Story: © European Union/ECHO/Hilaire Avril

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