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  • On the northern tip of Colombia, the La Guajira department is a dry stretch of land bordering Venezuela on the East and the Caribbean Sea on the North with about 50% of it's population made of indigenous groups - mainly Wayuu - and with very high levels of poverty. In recent years the region has seen a prolonged drought which has exacerbated the levels of undernutrition in the region.

    According to one community leader, less than half of the population of La Guajira has access to running water and many families must spend up to five hours searching for water in a day. People are without access to water even for drinking, let alone for farming. This is having dramatic effects on the most vulnerable populations, such as pregnant woman and young children, where it can have irreversible effects on brain development. The Guardian reported that an estimated 400 children died of malnutrition in the years 2013-15, and 2014, the second year of drought, saw an estimated 20000 cattle die as a result of water shortage.

    On top of that, lack of access to water in the region has involved corruption and mismanagement of resources, locals said. A dam was built to mitigate the effects of cyclical droughts, but Wayuu leaders claim its water is mainly used by the Cerrejón coalmine, the largest open-pit coal mine in Latin America, and by the time the river reaches their lands it is barely a trickle. Wayuu leaders have taken their case for water to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, requesting precautionary measures aiming to force the local and national government to ensure their access to water.

    In 2016 I went to La Guajira on a commission with WaterAid to document the water crisis and their projects in the region