Unicef denounced that 32,488 children crossed the dangerous natural border crossing between Colombia and Panama this year, 10% more than the total number of minors who did so last year on foot. The majority are Venezuelans
Migrants cross a river on their journey north near Colombia
On their irregular journey Towards the United States 32,488 minors, a new historic figure, crossed the Darién jungle between January and October, the dangerous natural border between Colombia and Panama, half of them under 5 years of age, alerted Unicef this Saturday.
That number is 10% larger than all minors who walked the 266-kilometre jungle journey last year.
In addition, the number of adolescents migrating unaccompanied has risen quadrupled compared to 2021 to add “around 900 adolescents compared to 200 in 2021.
Children who cross the jungle are exposed “to multiple forms of violence, including sexual abuse, trafficking and exploitation, as well as the lack of safe water and food, insect bites, attacks by wild animals and the sudden rise of rivers”, stressed the United Nations entity.
“The boys and girls children under 5 years of age, who represent 50% of migrant children, are particularly vulnerable to diarrhea, dehydration and other diseases. Additionally, the stress and danger associated with this journey leaves many children at risk of emotional trauma,” UNICEF highlighted.
Venezuelan migrants climb a mountain with the intention of reaching Panama, in the Darién Gap (Colombia)
The numbers of minors and adolescents migrants are recorded at a time that breaks records irregular migration through the Darién, with 211,355 travelers in the first 10 months of this year, an unparalleled number, of whom 70.1% were Venezuelan, the nationality that drove the wave of migration to the United States this year, according to official Panamanian figures.
Panama receives travelers at immigration reception stations (ERM) located on its borders with Colombia and Costa Rica, taking biometric data and offering them medical services and food, in a unique operation on the continent that has consumed at least 50 million dollars since 2020 according to official data.
“Violence, poverty and the hope of finding better living conditions push families with children to leave their homes and face threats in inhospitable areas such as the Darién Gap,” said the deputy executive director of Unicef, Hannan Sulieman, during a visit to the ERM of Lajas Blancas, in the Panamanian province of Darién.
Sulieman pointed out that “in Panama, as in many other countries, the rapid increase in the number of children migrating overloads the capacity of the State to provide basic services in response to their specific needs”, for which “UNICEF calls on all governments to take actions to protect migrant children, regardless of their origin.”
Unicef reported that it has increased its presence from one to five migrant reception centers on the borders with Colombia and Costa Rica, and in Panama City.
“In the centers, UNICEF provides safe drinking water, personal hygiene implements, psychosocial care and maternal and child health services for thousands of boys and girls and pregnant women on the move, as well as host communities living in extreme poverty,” said the representative of the UN entity in Panama, Sandie Blanchet.< /b>
This presence and action of Unicef and It's possible thanks to “donors, the United States Government and the European Union, and in close collaboration with the Government of Panama and our partners,” Blanchet added.
(With information from EFE)