Panama: Population Movement, Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA), MDRPA011, operation update, 22 March 2016

A. Situation analysis

Description of the disaster

Update on the original situation: The amount of migrants entering Panama through La Miel - Puerto Obaldía and arriving in Paso Canoas has diminished, largely due to the fact that Ecuador is now requesting a visa. However, between 3 and 5 people still arrive each day. To date, approximately 1,300 Cuban nationals are staying in collective centres at the Paso Canoas border. It is a known fact that the migrants who have sufficient resources are staying throughout the country, renting houses and rooms from Panamanian families while they wait for their situation to be resolved so that they can continue on to Costa Rica en route to the United States.

In Puerto Obaldía, overcrowding has worsened, and some Cuban migrants are now entering the country from Colombia through unusual areas such as Yaviza and Metetí in the province of Darién on their way to Panama City.

Newly assessed situation: The first four cases of AH1N1 influenza were reported in the Paso Canoas region in the first four weeks of 2016. One of the cases was a migrant staying in one of the collective centres, who later died from the illness; two other infected people remained hospitalized in critical condition.

After a week, cases went up to an average of 37, and the number is expected to rise. The Ministry of Health started a massive vaccination campaign, and it has issued an epidemiologic alert for the province of Chiriquí.

Based on the ongoing nature of the population movement situation and on the recently established presence of the AH1N1 virus among the migrant population and in the area in general, the IFRC are requesting an extension of this operation.

Telecommunications in Puerto Obaldía are limited and costly, and the migrants seeking shelter there do not often have the resources to pay for internet and/or public payphones. The need for a satellite phone to provide restoring family links (RFL) services has surfaced in keeping with the findings from recent field assessments.