Fleeing home in search of safety and a better life, a group of roughly 160 people set out from San Pedro Sula, Honduras in mid-October. Since then, the caravan spread quickly by word of mouth and grew to 7,200 people – including 2,300 children. Families flee their homes in caravans, or large groups, periodically because a larger group can provide protection and reduce the risk of dying on the harrowing journey. The most recent caravan is the largest on record, and the humanitarian need for children is dire.
UNICEF is there at every step of the way protecting children, and you can help.
Why are they leaving?
Most of the children traveling with the caravan are fleeing the countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Gang violence and legacies of war have made these countries some of the most violent and impoverished areas in the world, and the children are seeking safety and economic opportunity. The violence can be conceptualized by looking at the homicide rates in each of the countries and comparing them to the U.S., where many of the children hope to seek asylum:
- El Salvador – 83 murders per 100,000
- Honduras – 57 murders per 100,000
- Guatemala – 27 murders per 100,000
- USA – 5 murders per 100,000
These conditions, in addition to limited access to quality education and social services, are part of daily life for millions of children in the region. Each day, families facing these harsh conditions make the painful decision to leave their homes, communities and countries in search of safety and a more hopeful future.
What is the need?
While those traveling with the caravan hope for safety in numbers, the perils of using irregular migration routes remain significant, especially for children. The journey is long, uncertain, and full of danger, including the risk of exploitation, violence and abuse. Migrating and displaced children are at risk of some of the worst forms of abuse, often falling victim to traffickers and other criminals.
The estimated 2,300 children traveling with the migrant caravan, which is now in southern Mexico, need protection and access to essential services. The long and arduous journey has left children exposed to inclement weather, including dangerously hot temperatures, with limited access to proper shelter. Some have already fallen ill or suffered from dehydration.
When, and if, these children reach their destination countries, they encounter new threats. Despite extraordinary and generous actions in many places and by many people and organizations, children and their families struggle to gain a foothold.
UNICEF in Action
This issue is much larger than the recent caravan, as evidenced by the more than 50,000 unaccompanied children who were apprehended at the Southwest U.S.-Mexico border in the past year. And as long as there have been children in need, UNICEF has been there every step of the way protecting them in their home countries, in transit, at their destinations, and upon return.
Utilizing a longstanding presence in Central America, UNICEF is working with governments and other partners to ensure that children are provided with the help and services they need and that their rights are upheld. This includes providing technical assistance to authorities on nutrition and child protection, such as developing models for alternative care to detention, and expanding access to psychosocial support.
Additionally, UNICEF and partners are providing children and families in the caravan with more than 20,000 liters of safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitation packs, oral rehydration salts, sunscreen, and soap.
UNICEF works with governments and civil society partners at all levels to keep children safe by addressing the root causes that drive them to flee, with or without their parents, in the first place. A child is a child, and UNICEF needs your help to make sure they are treated as such. Please donate now.
To advocate on behalf of the world's children and connect with other UNICEF supporters in your community, we encourage you to join UNICEF UNITE. Visit unicefunite.org for more information.
Top photo: Getty Images