In the south of Colombia, in the department of Nariño, Ipiales is located three kilometers from the border with Ecuador. The city is on a high plateau at 2,950 meters above sea level and has 120,000 inhabitants.
The main economic activity in the city is trade, much of which is informal. Living conditions in the surrounding rural areas, where most people are indigenous subsistence farmers, can be harsh, and many people here feel excluded from the economic and political processes in the country.
Since 2003, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Ipiales.
Learning opportunities are not equal for all children in Colombia. In rural areas, a quarter of children aged 9 to 12 have never attended school - in urban areas, that number drops to 11%.
When adjusted for learning outcomes, Afro-Colombians and indigenous populations lose the equivalent of 4.7 and 4.5 years of education, respectively. These figures are a year or more than for other groups.
These discrepancies between schooling and learning outcomes are related to differences in educational access and quality.
In 2020, a congressional hearing highlighted that there have been 1,817 cases of child trafficking in Colombia since 2010, resulting in only 54 convictions.
Child trafficking is a major issue in Ipiales, where the proximity of the border with Ecuador. Refugees and Venezuelan migrants cross the border, and transcontinental migrants enter Panama through Colombia. Incidents of gender-based violence, drug trafficking, and human trafficking have been reported. This environment can be very unsafe for children whose parents are themselves in a precarious situation.