Disasters & Accidents

Indigenous leader: Ancestral, Western wisdom combined in finding missing kids

Bogota, Jun 11 (EFE).- The combination of ancestral and Western wisdom enabled searchers to rescue four Colombian children who had remained missing in the Amazon jungle for 40 days after surviving a plane crash, one of the indigenous leaders participating in the search said Sunday.

“It was a combination between ancestral wisdom and Western wisdom, or between military technique and traditional technique. That combination kept hope and joy alive,” the national coordinator for the Indigenous Guard of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), Luis Acosta, told reporters.

The children were found on Friday at a remote spot in the border area between Caqueta and Guaviare provinces, where they had been sought by some 200 Colombian soldiers, including Special Forces personnel, and indigenous volunteers for weeks in “Operation Hope.”

A Colombian air force helicopter on Friday night brought the children out of the jungle and transported them to San Jose del Guaviare, and capital of Guaviare province, where a C-295 aircraft configured as an ambulance picked them up and took them to Bogota, where they are being treated at the Central Military Hospital (HMC).

The rescued children are Lesly Mukutuy, 13 who led and took care of her siblings for 40 days; Soleiny Mukutuy, 9; Tien Noriel Ronoque Mukutuy, 5; and Cristin Neruman Ranoque, 1.

The children had gone missing after the May 1 crash of the Cessna 206 owned by Avianline Charter in which they were traveling with their mother, an indigenous leader and the pilot. The plane went down in the Colombian jungle, with all three adults dying in the crash, but the children survived because they were riding in the tail section, which was undamaged.

Acosta praised the joint work of the indigenous communities and the military in finding the kids.

“The effort that was undertaken for the children was combined, between the public and the spiritual forces. The medicine that was used was Western medicine and traditional medicine, since it’s very important that the focus of the indigenous peoples be taken into account and that’s why traditional medicine is essential for healing,” he said.

In that regard, Acosta said that “the health practices of Lesly, Soleiny, Tien Noriel and Cristin themselves” enabled them to survive in the jungle for 40 days.

He added that now that they are recovering from their ordeal at the Bogota hospital, traditional techniques should be combined with Western medicine to treat them.

He also said that there are still rescue workers out in the jungle due to weather conditions, given that “at this time, it’s raining a lot in the area.” He added that most of those who participated in the search are in good health, although three soldiers sustained eye and mouth injuries and that other unidentified people came down with yellow fever and dengue in the jungle.

Meanwhile, Manuel Ranoque, the father of the four children said Sunday that he has received threats from the Carolina Ramirez Front, made up of members of a dissident faction of the now-disbanded Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas.

“I’m going to live full-time in Bogota because I’m having problems …with the Carolina Ramirez Front that’s looking for me,” he told reporters outside the HMC medical center where the children are recovering.

He said that the dissident FARC group is threatening him for “economic” reasons and had begun to exert pressure on him by threatening his children, although he provided no further details.

He asked that he and his children be provided with “dignified housing” as well as a guaranteed education for the kids and safety for his family.

EFE –/bp

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