The four indigenous children who were lost for 40 days in the Amazon jungle in Colombia are recovering in Central Military Hospital in Bogotá. The children were visited Saturday by Colombian President Gustavo Petro, who celebrated how indigenous and military knowledge came together in the search, which had kept the entire country on edge for over a month. Despite their ordeal in the inhospitable jungle, the children are in “acceptable” medical condition, said Colombian Defense Minister Iván Velásquez.
Lesly, 13, and her siblings Solecni, nine, Tien Noriel, four, and Cristin Neryman, a one-year-old baby, were airlifted from Friday night by helicopter. However, due to the thick jungle canopy, the helicopter was unable to land, remaining 60 meters up in the air above the treetops. The children were flown to San José del Guaviare, the nearest town, and then taken to Bogotá by a C-295 aircraft configured as an ambulance, where they received medical assistance. A video released by Colombia’s Civil Aviation authority shows the children lying on the ground while military doctors give them medicine and oral rehydration solution.
“We have to recognize not only Lesly’s courage but also her leadership. It was thanks to her that her three little siblings were able to survive by her side, with her care, with her knowledge of the jungle,” said Velásquez from the hospital, acknowledging also the indigenous communities that helped the soldiers search for the children.
Operation Hope was the name of the government’s mission to find the children, the only survivors of a plane crash that killed three adults, including their mother. The plane crashed n the Amazon jungle, between the departments of Caquetá and Guaviare, on May 1. The children wandered through the dense jungle for more than a month. Up to 184 people combed the jungle every day in search of them — 112 soldiers and 72 indigenous people. News of the search made headlines around the world, as photos and videos of new clues — a diaper, a bottle, a shoe and a half-eaten apple — were found. But as the days passed, hopes of finding them alive began to dwindle. That was until Friday, when soldiers radioed the code word to indicate the children had been found alive: “miracle.” It was repeated four times, once for each child.
In a message on social media, Petro paid tribute to the efforts of the soldiers and the indigenous communities to find the children. He spoke of how military and indigenous knowledge had worked hand in hand, and also of the importance of respecting the jungle. The message was accompanied by photos of his visit to the hospital, where he was joined by his wife, Veronica Alcocer, and daughters Sofia and Antonella. “Here is a different path for Colombia: I believe this is the true path to peace,” the president said in a message on Twitter. “Here is a new Colombia. That is of life before anything else. The goal that unites us is life.”
The four children are in “acceptable medical condition,” despite having some bites and skin lesions, reported General Carlos Rincón Arango, the director of the Central Military Hospital. They are receiving nutritional and psychological support and will be hospitalized for two to three weeks. Medical tests have ruled out life-threatening conditions, he added. “They still talk very little and are weak, but they want to play,” added Astrid Cáceres, the director of the Colombian Family Welfare Institute. “Let’s give them time.”
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