UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore's remarks at the Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework (MIRPS) Solidarity Event
As prepared for delivery
NEW YORK, 10 June 2021 - "Excellencies. Thank you to the Governments of Costa Rica, Guatemala and Spain, as well as UNHCR and the Organization of American States, for organizing this event. And thank you to all of our partners for joining.
"UNICEF welcomes this opportunity to shine a spotlight on an issue that affects hundreds of thousands of children and their families on the move across Central America and Mexico.
"They’re fleeing violence in their communities. They’re fleeing the impact of natural disasters like last November’s back-to-back hurricanes. And they’re fleeing the economic devastation of COVID-19, which has left families homeless and destitute.
"Most of all, families are fleeing because they’re seeking what any parent would want for their children — safety, opportunity and a better future. The simple blessings of a normal, peaceful, stable childhood.
"While the region is making some impressive strides in addressing the root causes of migration, we still need to reckon with a difficult fact — that there are not enough opportunities for children and families, and too many threats to their safety and wellbeing.
"We’ve seen an alarming surge of migrant children in Mexico this year. And Mexican children themselves are also on the move.
"These children are making perilous journeys—exhausted and afraid. Each step puts them at risk of violence and exploitation, and recruitment to gangs. Girls are especially at risk of sexual violence — sex trafficking has seen a three-fold increase in the region over the last 15 years.
"These young lives need our support — whether in their country of origin, as they transit, when they arrive at their destination, or if they return.
"UNICEF believes we have a unique moment to co-ordinate our efforts, and boost investments in schools, training, social safety nets and local social workers. These are all proven game-changers that can reduce violence, and deliver the skills, opportunity and hope young people need to build better futures for themselves — and their communities and countries.
"Thanks to partners and governments across the region — many represented here today — we are already making a difference.
"No matter where they are in their journeys, UNICEF and our partners are increasing children’s access to education, healthcare, income transfers, and community-based services to protect them from violence — and the physical and psychological scars can last a lifetime.
"And we’re conducting family tracing and reunification programming for unaccompanied child migrants to quickly reunite them with their families.
"But as we address these immediate issues, we also have an opportunity to do more to address the root causes of migration — and make life better for the children and families across the region.
"This includes investing in education and vocational skills training — including online and remote solutions — to reverse a staggering dropout rate.
"It includes investing in evidence-based programmes to reduce community violence.
"It includes financial aid, including cash transfers and other social protection measures, to support children and their families in communities of origin.
"It includes investments in stronger health and nutrition systems, so children are supported from birth to adulthood. This must include inclusive access to COVID-19 vaccines.
"UNICEF will continue to work closely with governments in the region on economic and social reform packages that will strengthen national and local economies.
"We believe that a stronger, safer, more peaceful and prosperous region is possible. So as we support children and their families on the move, we should also seize this moment to make life better for everyone in the region. Thank you."