Four Colombian Indigenous children who survived a plane crash in the country’s Amazon region and lived alone for more than five weeks in the jungle have been released from hospital after a 34-day stay.
The children, aged one through 13, were released from hospital on Thursday night following treatment and surveillance after the May 1 crash that killed their mother and two other adults. They were found last month after an extensive and complex search and rescue effort.
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The Indigenous children’s knowledge of the jungle, as well as the eldest sister’s courage, have been credited by officials with saving their lives.
“They have recovered size and weight. Really, they are very well,” Astrid Caceres, the director of the country’s child welfare institute, told journalists on Friday.
“The second phase of caring and protecting them begins,” she said.
The children – Lesly, aged 13; Soleiny, nine; Tien Noriel, five; and one-year-old baby Cristin – appeared emaciated in photos taken shortly after they were found, and in the hospital, they were given food typical of the Huitoto Indigenous group to which they belong, such as cassava flour.
Relatives say the children managed to survive thanks to Lesly’s deep knowledge of survival in the jungle, with its many inherent dangers – including snakes, predatory animals and armed criminal groups.
It took nearly 200 military and Indigenous rescuers with search dogs to track the children down.
The siblings will remain under the care of the child welfare institute because of a “complex family situation”, Caceres said, and final custody arrangements for them will be decided in six months.
“We’re entering a transitional phase for the protection of the children,” Caceres added.
Both the father of the two youngest children and their mother’s family have told the media they want custody.