According to data from Panama's National Migration Service, 127,168 migrant individuals crossed Darien National Park between January and April 2023, a number that translates to over 1,000 people per day. This figure overwhelms the humanitarian service points where the Red Cross provides assistance.
The majority arrive in a devastating and inhumane condition. They are injured, dehydrated, with severe allergic reactions, and complications from pregnancies or chronic illnesses. Many have been victims of abuse and violence. The Red Cross provides them with first aid, basic healthcare, and access to water. They also provide information, internet connectivity, and referrals to specialized institutions.
But these record numbers also strain the basic services in the communities that host the migrant people after their journey through the jungle. In Bajo Chiquito, the number of walkers is sometimes five times greater than the number of local inhabitants, which leads to the collapse of water supply, for example. The water treatment plants installed by the Red Cross there are insufficient.
Despite all efforts to meet the growing needs, the aid in Darien is becoming insufficient. Migrants, local communities, and humanitarian agencies all need humanitarian assistance to grow exponentially. We need sustained help over time that can adapt to changes in the context and is aimed at saving lives and protecting dignity, like the one provided by the Red Cross thanks to humanitarian aid funding and the continuous support of the European Union, Spanish Cooperation, and other actors*.
The region is on the brink of a new rainy and hurricane season, which makes it even more urgent for support to arrive as soon as possible. From June to November, the risks faced by migrants on the migration route from Panama to Mexico will also include river floods and storms. The IFRC and the Red Cross network are preparing to face this scenario, but as they warned last March, we need allies. Providing humanitarian assistance remains urgent and is a team effort.
In August 2022, the IFRC launched an emergency appeal requesting international support of 18 million Swiss francs (USD 20.3 million) to provide humanitarian assistance to 210,000 people along the migration routes of Central America and Mexico. However, the amount raised so far is around five percent of the total requested.
*Contributors include the British Red Cross, Swedish Red Cross, Canadian Red Cross, Japanese Red Cross, Monaco Red Cross, Dutch Red Cross, Swiss Red Cross, Simón Bolivar Foundation, and UNICEF.