COVID-19, children on the move and other crises in Mexico and Central America
Humanitarian Action for Children
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provides conflict- and disaster-affected children with access to water, sanitation, nutrition,
education, health and protection services. Return to main appeal page.
COVID-19, children on the move and other crises in Mexico and Central America snapshot
- Mexico and Central America face multiple and complex humanitarian situations affecting 4.8 million children due to violence, climate shocks, food insecurity, and increasing inequity; all compounded by the health and socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 and fueling cross-border migration and internal displacement. UNICEF seeks to reach nearly 1.1 million children and their families, including children on the move and host communities, and those in other vulnerable communities affected by the impacts of COVID-19, natural hazards and other crises.
- 2021 was characterized by a dramatic increase of migration flows and the profile of migrants changed from solo male travelers to families with children and unaccompanied children. This truly is a children’s crisis. UNICEF requests US$127.7 million to expand its support to provide humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable children and support the governments to build shock-responsive systems to mitigate future vulnerabilities. Anticipated results include the continuity of life-saving interventions for the most vulnerable children and families, including health, nutrition, WASH, protection and education, and promoting social protection and cash-based programmes.
Key planned targets for 2022
553,259 primary caregivers receiving infant and young child feeding counselling
284,850 children and women accessing health care
285,115 people accessing a sufficient quantity of safe water
161,503 children / caregivers accessing mental health and psychosocial support
Funding requirements for 2022
Country needs and strategy
Children in Mexico and Central America are facing multiple protracted crises due to climate shocks, complex political situations, intensified violence including violence against women and children, food insecurity, malnutrition, social and economic inequity and limited access to quality essential services, compounded by the health and socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19, fueled by migration and internal displacement. For example, intensifying violence has displaced more than 846,000 Mexicans and Central Americans within their countries. One in three internally displaced persons from countries in Central America are children. Without urgent interventions, the well-being and the future of millions of children are at risk. The year 2021 witnessed the dramatic increase of migration flows, which became mixed and multi-directional, partly due to increased forced/voluntary returns. The profile of migrants changed from young solo-male travelers to families with children as well as many unaccompanied children. Over 132,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the southwestern border of the United States between October 2020 and August 2021, representing a fourfold increase compared with the same period in 2020. For many unaccompanied adolescents, fleeing is often the only viable option to survive, as they fear for their life due to death threats and recruitment by gangs. Nearly 19,000 migrant children walked through the dangerous Darien jungle in Panama from South America. This is a children’s crisis.
Humanitarian needs of vulnerable children and families add pressure to existing services, often already scarce in remote communities, and overwhelm authorities in transit and destination countries, especially during peaks or mixed mass movements (“caravans”). Children and families have been hit hardest by the humanitarian and socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic, including extended school closures, disruption of essential services and intensifying violence against children and women. As of September 2021, countries included in this appeal recorded 1.1 million COVID-19 cases and 86,845 deaths. Only 35 per cent of the population in these countries is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and the pandemic resulted in both temporarily slowing down cross-border movements and exacerbating the root causes for migration. With the emergence of new variants of the virus, expanding prevention, containment and effective treatment measures are critical to mitigate further negative secondary impact of the pandemic.
With multiple protracted crises in the region, an increased number of families with children migrate and travel longer journeys in pursuit of a better and safer life. UNICEF’s Humanitarian Strategy comprises reinforced coordination among countries and focuses on providing humanitarian assistance and protection to the most vulnerable children, adolescents and women. As the increased flow of migrants overwhelms existing services, UNICEF invests in building local capacities and shock-responsive systems and ensures that cross-cutting issues (including protection from sexual exploitation and abuse, and accountability to affected populations) contribute to building the “triple nexus” (humanitarian-development-peace).
UNICEF plans to triple its investments in services delivery through multi-sectoral efforts to reach 738,000 people on the move, including 341,000 children (migrants, returnees, displaced) and host communities, by providing humanitarian assistance and support to build shock-responsive systems through key authorities and stakeholders. The deceleration of the COVID-19 pandemic will imply a gradual shift from urgent humanitarian relief to a longer-term approach, focused on local system strengthening.
Guided by the Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action, UNICEF will ensure that 1.5 million vulnerable people, including 741,000 children, are protected from exposure to and the impacts of COVID-19 and other situations such as violence and the effects of climate shocks. Although on a smaller scale than 2021, UNICEF COVID-19 response – aligned with the global strategy – will focus on: support to public health responses for prevention; complement and strengthen the efforts of the governments and partners to maintain/restore/scale-up essential services in health, nutrition, WASH, child protection, gender-based violence, early childhood development, education and social protection; disseminate key information to reduce disease transmission and its impact; and make services equally accessible for people with disabilities and available in local languages.
UNICEF’s humanitarian response is led by Country Offices in affected countries, building local knowledge, existing partnerships, and extensive networks. They are closely supported by the Regional Office through technical assistance, quality assurance and oversight. UNICEF mobilizes its regional and global network to ensure that adequate staff capacity is made available, including as Global Cluster Lead Agency in WASH, nutrition, and co-lead for education, and the child protection Area of Responsibility. In El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, UNICEF’s humanitarian action is also aligned with these countries' inter-agency multi-crises/multi-sectoral Humanitarian Response Plans (HRPs).
UNICEF’s evidence-based advocacy during emergencies is guided by needs-assessment, Humanitarian Performance Monitoring indicators, and evaluations. Grand Bargain commitments34 are mainstreamed, including for localization, strengthening government and local actors’ capacities, accountability to affected population mechanisms, and ensuring the quality of humanitarian cash transfers.
Humanitarian Action is at the core of UNICEF’s mandate to realize the rights of every child. This edition of Humanitarian Action for Children – UNICEF’s annual humanitarian fundraising appeal – describes the ongoing crises affecting children on the move and COVID-19 in Mexico and Central America; the strategies that we are using to respond to these situations; and the donor support that is essential in this response.