On October 18th, 2018 at the Beverly Hills SLS Hotel, UNICEF USA hosted Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalist and Humanitarian, Sonia Nazario, in conversation with UNICEF USA Vice President of Humanitarian Emergencies, Lisa Szarkowski, to present on the root causes of child migration from Central America. Sonia Nazario has tackled some of this country’s most intractable problems -- hunger, drug addiction, immigration -- and has won prestigious journalism and book awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes. She is best known for "Enrique's Journey," her story of a Honduran boy’s struggle to find his mother in the U.S.
Sonia passionately described the reasons children and their families in Central America are being forced to flee their homes due to poverty and gang-related violence. Children head north in search of safety, security, and the possibility of a future unmarred by conflict. The path of migration is extremely dangerous, with children and women easily becoming preys to traffickers, gangs, and criminals who abuse, exploit or even kill them. Children are often apprehended in transit upon reaching their destinations, only to be separate from their families, detained and returned to their countries of origin. Sonia enlightened the audience that when migrant children and their families are sent back, they frequently find themselves in debt, unable to earn back the money spent to finance their journey, and endure significant psychological stress and stigma from their communities.
Imparting UNICEF’s efforts to protect the rights of migrant children, Lisa and Sonia conversed with the audience in a lively Q&A session. Lisa shared that UNICEF’s work is manifold - focusing on improving the lives of children and families whose circumstances force them to consider migrating, protecting their safety along the migration journey, and supporting programs that help them face the multiple challenges of reintegration back into their communities. UNICEF USA is galvanizing the American public to advocate for policies the promote child protection within the United States and along the U.S. southern border where many children are separated from their parents and placed in detention.
Maintaining any child in detention is extremely harmful to a child’s health and well-being. By speaking up against the indefinite detention of children in the U.S. and calling for the end of family separation, we can all contribute to UNICEF’s mission of helping children everywhere survive and thrive.
For more information on UNICEF’s work on the ground in Central America to support the needs of migrant children, click here. To learn more about activities in the Southern California Region in support of UNICEF, please email us at LosAngeles@unicefusa.org.