UNICEF says the number of migrant children passing through the dangerous Darien gap between Colombia and Panama has risen dramatically
CITY OF PANAMA – The number of migrant children passing through the dangerous Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama has risen dramatically, the UN agency for child care announced on Monday.
Although underage migrants made up only about 2% of those who used the jungle corridor in 2017, children in 2020 made up 25% of migrants who had difficulty walking, according to a UNICEF report.
Darien Gap is a 97-kilometer (97-kilometer) roadless jungle stretch that provides the only land route north of South America. There is little food or shelter on the one-week trip, and bandits and wild animals prey on migrants.
Most of the migrants embarking on the campaign are from Haiti or Cuba, and a smaller number from African countries such as Cameroon and Congo and the South Asian countries of India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
“I saw women coming out of the jungle with babies in their arms after walking for more than seven days without water, food or any kind of protection,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF’s regional director who traveled the zone for two days.
“These families are crossing their borders and endangering their lives, often not realizing the risks they are taking,” Gough said.
During the last four years, a total of at least 46,500 migrants traveled, and a total of 6,240 minors in those years.
The U.S. government has faced an increase in the number of unaccompanied minors and families with children who have arrived at its southern border in recent months. About 18,000 unaccompanied children were in government custody last week.