The medical-humanitarian organization renews its request for safe routes and to offer basic emergency services to migrants who cross the Darién jungle
Conditions for receiving migrants in the province of Darién (Panama) are deteriorating. Doctors Without Borders (MSF), an organization present at the Migratory Reception Station (ERM) of San Vicente, pointed out the enormous lack of protection, medical care or basic services, among others, with which the itinerant population that arrives at that country is received.
On average, 300 migrants are arriving at the station per day, who have difficulty accessing medical care or basic emergency services. Rabia Ben Ali, MSF coordinator in Panama, said that “the conditions for receiving migrants are insufficient. Every day hundreds of people arrive in Canaán Membrillo, the first town they find in Panama after crossing the Darién, but where they do not receive medical attention, and then they are taken to San Vicente, where they hardly find adequate conditions for care according to standards international”.
Unlike the previous year, when migrants arrived in the town of Bajo Chiquito – where MSF and the Ministry of Health provided care during 2021 – and were then transferred to the MRS of Lajas Blancas and San Vicente, the area of Canaán Membrillo is currently the which has become the gateway to Panama for most migrants.
According to data from Migración Panamá, Venezuelans led the transit through the Darién jungle route during January and February 2022. Last year, the majority of migrants who crossed this route, a route to the United States, were Haitians, Cubans and to a lesser extent Venezuelans.
Women victims of sexual violence do not receive any type of care, nor do other patients suffering from serious medical problems. When they arrive at the MRS of San Vicente, many times the medical complications have worsened and the time for preventive medical treatment to be effective in cases of sexual violence is insufficient.
In recent weeks, the number of cases of victims of sexual violence who do not receive timely care within 72 hours after the assault has increased, which is why MSF considers it essential that the Panamanian authorities put in place mechanisms for the detection these cases in Canaán Membrillo and make the protection mechanisms effective to prevent attacks on migrants along the route.
The conditions of the San Vicente facilities must also be improved, adds Ben Ali. There is no general access to bedrooms, children and pregnant women sleep on the floor, and hygienic conditions are poor. These conditions affect migrants both in their physical and mental health.
During the month of April, on average, MSF teams treated 78 patients daily. Most of the pathologies detected were skin diseases and body aches (61%). Diarrhea, respiratory infections and diseases in the digestive system represented 20% of the cases.
In addition, the mental health team treated six patients daily for conditions such as acute stress, depressive episodes, anxious reactions, and bereavement related to deaths of family members along the way, as well as deaths from drowning.
Although in January and February there was a reduction in the flow of migrants through the Darien jungle, in March and April it increased, as did the cases of robberies and sexual violence. In 2022, from January to the first week of May, MSF attended to 89 cases of sexual violence that occurred while crossing the Darién. In 2021 (April to December) there were 328 cases attended.
With information from Press release