Children on the move and COVID-19 in Mexico and Central America Appeal
Humanitarian Action for Children
UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children appeal helps support the agency’s work as it
provides conflict- and disaster-affected children with access to water, sanitation, nutrition,
education, health and protection services. Return to main appeal page.
Children on the move and COVID-19 in Mexico and Central America snapshot
- Prior to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Mexico and countries in Central America were facing significant humanitarian needs related to migration flows, violence, internal displacement, food insecurity and poverty. The pandemic could push 10 million additional people into poverty, leaving millions of children dependent on humanitarian assistance.
- UNICEF will address the specific needs of at least 251,000 people in the context of human mobility in border areas/routes/transit points, in communities of origin and return, and at final destinations; while ensuring that the most vulnerable children, families and communities are protected from exposure to and the impacts of COVID-19.
- UNICEF is requesting US$59.7 million to expand its support to children and families in the context of human mobility and address COVID-19-related humanitarian needs. Anticipated results include the safe return to school; nutritional support; and the provision of sanitation and hygiene services and supplies.
Key planned targets for 2021
183,400 primary caregivers receiving infant and young child feeding counselling
96,320 people reached with critical water, sanitation and hygiene supplies and services
37,988 children/caregivers accessing mental health and psychosocial support
1.1 million children accessing educational services
Funding requirements for 2021
Country needs and strategy
In parts of Central America, forced recruitment, gang violence and crime are daily realities for children. These issues are often compounded by poverty and limited access to quality education.
Irregular migration flows continue to affect the subregion, with thousands experiencing urgent needs, including 87,000 unaccompanied children and 446,000 family units apprehended/expelled at the southwestern border of the United States of America, between January 2019 and August 2020. Between 2018 and 2019, the number of apprehended families increased by 160 per cent. In Mexico, refugee applications increased 20-fold between 2015 and 2019. Over 470,000 people from northern Central America have sought asylum/refuge worldwide.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 5,000 children (60 per cent unaccompanied) have been returned to El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico from the United States and Mexico. In Panama, there has been a six-fold increase in the number of extra-continental migrant children crossing the Darien Gap over the past two years, and 2,500 migrants were stranded at border sites due to COVID-19.
The rights of migrant women and children to basic services, including shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), food, protection, education and health care, are frequently violated in countries of origin, transit, destination and return. The policies adopted by some governments have also impacted children’s access to safety and international protection.
As of August 2020, the countries included in this appeal have recorded 895,000 COVID-19 cases and 72,000 deaths. The existing socio-economic dynamics in these countries, including poverty, social and gender inequalities, violence, displacement, food insecurity, malnutrition and climate shocks, have increased vulnerability to the pandemic.
Children and families have been devastated by the humanitarian and socio-economic impacts of the pandemic, including the extended lockdowns, school closures, the cessation of essential economic activities, declining migrant remittances, and rising violence against children and women. As economies contract, an additional 10 million people could fall into poverty and thousands of families will rely on humanitarian assistance to cover basic needs. More than 42 million students have been affected by school closures and substantial investment is needed to ensure the safe reopening and operation of schools.
Children affected by human mobility are at heightened risk due to the impacts of COVID-19, with limited or no access to safe water, sanitation and essential services. The crisis has also restricted access to international protection and regular migration pathways.
UNICEF will respond to the needs of at least 251,000 people affected by human mobility in line with its Agenda for Action for Refugee and Migrant Children. Actions will be implemented to achieve the following strategic objectives, in coordination with humanitarian partners and governments: (1) promote and advocate for the rights of children and families; (2) ensure access to gender-sensitive services and protection for migrants, refugees and unaccompanied children (i.e., protection, gender-based violence, education, health, nutrition, safe water, sanitation and hygiene); and (3) promote social inclusion and integration through access to social services and humanitarian cash transfers; the regularization of children’s and their families’ legal status; strengthened social policies and national and local capacities; and strong linkages between humanitarian action and development programmes.
Actions will be delivered at strategic locations, including border areas/routes/transit points, communities of origin and return and final destinations. The needs of host communities will be taken into consideration in all interventions.
UNICEF's COVID-19 response will be guided by the Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action and global guidance on COVID-19. The response will focus on ensuring that 2.3 million vulnerable children and their families – including children affected by human mobility – are protected from exposure to and the impacts of COVID-19. This will include supporting a people-centred public health response for prevention, care and treatment (including supplies); strengthening and complementing government and partner efforts to maintain/restore/scale up essential services, including for health, nutrition, WASH, child protection, gender-based violence, early childhood development, education and social protection; establishing effective coordination and collaboration with United Nations agencies, governments and humanitarian partners; disseminating key information to reduce disease transmission and its impact; and making materials and services equally accessible for people with disabilities and available in local languages.
Given its long-term presence in the countries covered by this appeal, UNICEF will link its humanitarian action with development programmes aimed at strengthening policies and systems, including enhancing resilience.
UNICEF's Grand Bargain commitments are mainstreamed across its strategies. For example, UNICEF will promote localization by strengthening government and local actors; reinforce mechanisms for accountability to affected populations; and boost the quality and impact of humanitarian cash transfers.
Robust emergency preparedness and response measures will also be established. UNICEF’s strategy will be grounded in country-level response plans and adjusted over time to reflect the evolution of the pandemic and humanitarian needs.
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.