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Sun, Salt, Thirst: Wayuu People Struggle for Water and Basic Living Conditions

Photos taken during the production of Sol, Sal, Sed, a documentary for the IACHR

In the arid landscapes of northern Colombia, the indigenous Wayuu people are facing a dire water crisis that has left their communities grappling with the devastating impacts of scarcity. Situated in the La Guajira region, the Wayuu, Colombia's largest indigenous group, have traditionally relied on natural water sources for their livelihoods. However, increased water extraction for industrial purposes - including the predatory production of salt -, changing climate patterns, and prolonged droughts have drastically diminished the once-abundant water supply, plunging the Wayuu into an alarming situation.

The consequences are severe, with reports of malnutrition and disease-caused deaths on the rise, particularly affecting children and older people. Access to clean and safe drinking water has become a daily struggle, prompting urgent calls for government intervention and international aid. Efforts to address the crisis include drilling wells, distributing water tanks, and implementing sustainable water management practices, but Colombia's government has been absent in the region for decades.

As the Wayuu people continue to face the harsh reality of water scarcity, the global community still fails to recognize the importance of preserving indigenous rights and fostering environmental stewardship to ensure the survival of these unique cultures and their ecosystems.

These pictures were taken during the production of the short documentary 'Sol, Sal, Sed' for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in June 2019. The film is available here.

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