Mexico and Central America face multiple and complex humanitarian situations affecting 4.8 million children as a result of violence, climate shock, food insecurity and rising inequality; all exacerbated by the health and socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 and fueling cross-border migration and internal displacement. UNICEF aims to reach nearly 1.1 million children and their families, including children on the move and host communities, and people in other vulnerable communities affected by the effects of COVID-19, natural disasters and other crises.
2021 was marked by a dramatic increase in migratory flows and the profile of migrants changed from male solo travelers to families with children and unaccompanied children. This is truly a childhood crisis. UNICEF is asking for $127.7 million to expand its aid to provide humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable children and to support governments in building shock-sensitive systems to mitigate future vulnerabilities.
Expected outcomes include continuity of life-saving interventions for the most vulnerable children and families, including health, nutrition, WASH, protection and education, and promotion of social protection and money-based programs.
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION AND NEEDS
Children in Mexico and Central America face multiple protracted crises due to climate shock, complex political situations, intensified violence, including violence against women and children, food insecurity, malnutrition, social and economic inequality and limited access to quality essential services, exacerbated by the health problems and socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, fueled by migration and internal displacement. For example, the intensification of violence has displaced more than 846,000 Mexicans and Central Americans from their country. One in three displaced persons from countries in Central America are children.
Without urgent interventions, the well-being and future of millions of children is at risk. The year 2021 witnessed the dramatic increase in migratory flows, which became mixed and multi-directional, partly due to increased forced/voluntary returns. The profile of migrants changed from young men traveling alone to families with children and many unaccompanied children. More than 132,000 unaccompanied minors were detained on the southwestern border of the United States between October 2020 and August 2021, a fourfold increase from the same period in 2020.
For many unaccompanied adolescents, fleeing is often the only viable option for survival, as they fear for their lives due to death threats and gang recruitment. Nearly 19,000 migrant children walked from South America through the dangerous Darien jungle in Panama.
This is a childhood crisis.
Humanitarian needs of vulnerable children and families put pressure on existing services, which are often already scarce in remote communities, and overwhelm authorities in transit and destination countries, especially during peak periods or mixed mass movements (“caravans”).
Children and families have been hit hardest by the humanitarian and socio-economic impact of the pandemic, including extended school closures,20 disruption of essential services and increasing violence against children and women.
As of September 2021, the countries involved in this call registered 1.1 million COVID-19 cases and 86,845 deaths. Only 35 percent of the population in these countries has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and the pandemic has led to a temporary slowdown in cross-border movements and an aggravation of the root causes of migration.
With the emergence of new variants of the virus, expanding prevention, containment and effective treatment measures are critical to mitigate further negative side effects of the pandemic.