How Four Children Beat the Odds and Survived 40 Days in the Colombian Amazon

By: Dan Cooper

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The rescue of four children who survived lost for 40 days in the Colombian Amazon has been described as a miracle. Lesly (13 years old), Soleiny (9), Tien Noriel (5), and Cristin (1) were able to survive the inclemency of almost permanent rain and other dangers of the jungle due to several factors. The leadership of the older sister, the food found in the plane crash, the fruits collected, and the indigenous knowledge of the jungle were all decisive, according to rescuers who found them.

Role of the Older Sister Recognized

The Colombian Ministry of Defense gave special recognition to the role of the older sister. They said, “we have to recognize not only her courage, but her leadership. It was because of her that the three little brothers were able to survive.”

Lesly’s Fundamental Role in Protecting Her Siblings

According to Henry Guerrero, rescuer of the indigenous team that participated in the search, Lesly played a fundamental role in protecting her siblings. Guerrero explained, “The eldest was very intelligent, I realized when we checked what she had carried” in her briefcase since they left the plane. The girl brought with her fariña (cassava flour), a towel, a flashlight that ran out of batteries, two cell phones “with which I think they were distracted at night,” a music box, a bottle of soda, and clothes.

Tenacious Will of Survival

The tenacious will of survival was one of the main factors mentioned by the rescuers who found the four brothers. The children escaped virtually unharmed from the single-engine plane that crashed on May 1 when they were traveling with their mother, an indigenous leader, and the pilot. All the adults died.

Indigenous Roots and Knowledge

The brothers belong to the Huitoto people, originally from the Amazon. “They are indigenous children and they know the jungle very well. They know what to eat and what not. They managed to survive thanks to that and their spiritual strength,” said Luis Acosta, who participated in the search operations on behalf of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC). General Sánchez explained that the indigenous roots made it easier for them to adapt to the hostile environment of the jungle.

Amalgamation of Indigenous Knowledge and Military Art

The children traveled 2,656 kilometers, a distance equivalent to the distance between Caracas and Quito. “It was a spectacular amalgamation of indigenous knowledge and military art,” praised General Sánchez.

Recovery and Support of the Children

The children were found just 5 kilometers from the aircraft and when their forces began to fade. They were malnourished and weak, for which reason they had been in the same place for four days. They are in “acceptable clinical condition” and will receive “traditional and psychological support,” according to General Carlos Rincón, a doctor at the Central Military Hospital in Bogotá, where the minors are being recovered. The director of the state Colombian Institute for Family Welfare, Astrid Cáceres, said Monday that they are catching up on sleep, although the two oldest have had “spikes of fever”.

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