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Humanitarian Action for Children 2019 - Children on the move: Migration flows in Latin America and the Caribbean

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Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are hosting at least 2.4 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees out of the 3 million Venezuelans migrating worldwide. As of late 2018, UNICEF estimates that over 460,000 children in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Panama, Peru and Trinidad and Tobago require assistance. Those in need include Venezuelan migrants and refugees, host communities and non-Venezuelans returnees. The high and unpredictable migration flows are stretching the capacities of host countries and increasing demands on already limited services and structures at the host community level. Women and children, particularly unaccompanied children and children with disabilities, as well as indigenous groups, are facing risks of violence, discrimination, trafficking, exploitation and abuse. In 2019, an estimated 1.1 million people from both migrant and host communities will be in need of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services; 1.5 million children will require access to education; and nearly 265,000 boys, girls, adolescents and women will need essential health services. Affected people are in urgent need of access to registration, protection mechanisms, inclusive education, integrated health and nutrition services and adequate temporary or permanent housing. The medium- and long-term implications of the migration flows, such as the increase in demand for and costs of already stretched health, education and protection systems, mean that significant financial resources and technical capacities will be needed to carry out policy and programme adjustments. Colombia is the first country to comprehensively analyse such impacts and include mitigation measures in their national development plan. Other countries, such as Ecuador and Peru, are also considering the need to adjust their development plans. Integrating a child focus into those analyses and proposals will be crucial to ensuring sustainable integration.

Humanitarian strategy

Given the urgency, scale and extended duration of this crisis, as well as the strong role of states in addressing the short- and long-term implications, UNICEF’s humanitarian strategy is organized around three pillars of intervention at the country level, with special emphasis on Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Panama, Peru and Trinidad and Tobago. These are:

1) humanitarian action in fulfillment of humanitarian principles and the international protection framework for migrant children and their families, to ensure access to child protection services, education, holistic health and nutrition support and WASH services; 2) child protection and advocacy to ensure that the rights of migrant and refugee children and their families (including civil and political rights) are at the core of the actions taken by national stakeholders, civil society and humanitarian organizations; 3) resilient development and social policy to promote inclusion and integration by increasing access to and the quality and suitability of social services, regularizing the migration and international protection status of children, and enhancing relevant social policies and national capacity building to address key gaps. These three pillars will be adapted to each country context and the prevailing needs at border areas, along transit routes and in destination settlements. In 2019, UNICEF will develop interventions in seven countries, including at least 11 border points, several transit routes and 34 urban destinations. At the regional level, in addition to ongoing coordination, technical assistance and quality assurance of country office plans, UNICEF’s Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Office will provide the support requested by governments as per the Quito I and II Declarations. This will involve the implementation of five key multi-country strategies:

1) a monitoring and information analysis mechanism to measure the vulnerability of women, children and adolescents and support knowledge generation and sharing; 2) regional guidance and tools to facilitate integration into local services, focusing on holistic protection; 3) mechanisms fostering accountability to affected populations, such as U-Report on the Move; 4) programme training to enhance capacities for a sustained integration process; and 5) promotion of gender equality, nondiscrimination and empowerment. UNICEF will continue to enhance its contributions to the regional inter-agency platform led by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), providing leadership or co-leadership in the following areas: the campaign to prevent xenophobia, integral support services spaces, communication with communities, prevention and management of gender-based violence and information management.

Results from 2018

As of 31 October 2018, UNICEF had US$16.1 million available against the US$28 million appeal (57 per cent funded). In response to the migration crisis, in May 2018, UNICEF increased the regional Humanitarian Action for Children appeal for Latin America and the Caribbean to scale up its field presence and programme activities, including service delivery, advocacy and technical assistance, initially in neighbouring countries and later in countries where flows increased rapidly throughout the year. In line with inter-agency priorities, UNICEF prioritized sectors in which girls, boys and their families were most in need, such as WASH, health, nutrition, child protection and education, including early childhood development.
In Colombia, in schools and areas where Venezuelan migrants and other vulnerable communities are concentrated (i.e., migrant centres, border crossing sites and slums), over 13,000 people gained improved access to WASH services, including through improvements to water and sanitation infrastructure and the delivery of hygiene kits. In Brazil, where thousands of migrants are living in formal and informal shelters, UNICEF supported the establishment of 11 child-friendly spaces and reached over 4,200 children with education services. UNICEF advocacy efforts in Ecuador were fundamental to the signing and implementation of a ground-breaking protocol for the protection of uprooted children, including those arriving from Venezuela.
In Guyana, where access to reliable information about the composition of migration flows remains a great challenge, UNICEF reinforced the capacities of authorities to conduct information management and delivered assistance to 110 identified migrant and host families in remote indigenous communities. In Peru, where hundreds of migrants are crossing the border every day, UNICEF scaled up actions at the northern border and installed a child-friendly space that reached over 6,000 children with psychosocial support during the first three months. In Trinidad and Tobago, one of the main Caribbean destinations for Venezuelan migrants, UNICEF partnered with the main local non-governmental organization to reinforce capacities to address the needs of migrant children. With UNICEF support, a temporary learning centre increased its coverage, reaching 170 migrant children. In Panama, UNICEF has led advocacy efforts to approve and implement a national protocol for children in need of international protection. Within the regional inter-agency platform, UNICEF works with agencies to disseminate messages and multimedia content to prevent and combat xenophobia, and contributed to a regional mapping of services available to migrant populations along migrant routes as an initial input for the establishment of integral support services spaces.