Mexico and Central America face multiple and complex humanitarian situations affecting 4.8 million children due to violence, climate shocks, food insecurity, and increasing inequity; all compounded by the health and socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 and fueling cross-border migration and internal displacement. UNICEF seeks to reach nearly 1.1 million children and their families, including children on the move and host communities, and those in other vulnerable communities affected by the impacts of COVID-19, natural hazards and other crises.
2021 was characterized by a dramatic increase of migration flows and the profile of migrants changed from solo male travelers to families with children and unaccompanied children. This truly is a children’s crisis. UNICEF requests US$127.7 million to expand its support to provide humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable children and support the governments to build shock-responsive systems to mitigate future vulnerabilities.
Anticipated results include the continuity of life-saving interventions for the most vulnerable children and families, including health, nutrition, WASH, protection and education, and promoting social protection and cash-based programmes.
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION AND NEEDS
Children in Mexico and Central America are facing multiple protracted crises due to climate shocks, complex political situations, intensified violence including violence against women and children, food insecurity, malnutrition, social and economic inequity and limited access to quality essential services, compounded by the health and socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19, fueled by migration and internal displacement. For example, intensifying violence has displaced more than 846,000 Mexicans and Central Americans within their countries. One in three internally displaced persons from countries in Central America are children.
Without urgent interventions, the well-being and the future of millions of children are at risk. The year 2021 witnessed the dramatic increase of migration flows, which became mixed and multi-directional, partly due to increased forced/voluntary returns. The profile of migrants changed from young solo-male travellers to families with children as well as many unaccompanied children. Over 132,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the southwestern border of the United States between October 2020 and August 2021, representing a fourfold increase compared with the same period in 2020.
For many unaccompanied adolescents, fleeing is often the only viable option to survive, as they fear for their life due to death threats and recruitment by gangs. Nearly 19,000 migrant children walked through the dangerous Darien jungle in Panama from South America.
This is a children’s crisis.
Humanitarian needs of vulnerable children and families add pressure to existing services, often already scarce in remote communities, and overwhelm authorities in transit and destination countries, especially during peaks or mixed mass movements (“caravans”).
Children and families have been hit hardest by the humanitarian and socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic, including extended school closures,20 disruption of essential services and intensifying violence against children and women.
As of September 2021, countries included in this appeal recorded 1.1 million COVID-19 cases and 86,845 deaths. Only 35 per cent of the population in these countries is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and the pandemic resulted in both temporarily slowing down cross-border movements and exacerbating the root causes for migration.
With the emergence of new variants of the virus, expanding prevention, containment and effective treatment measures are critical to mitigate further negative secondary impact of the pandemic.