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Children Fleeing Latin America in Record Numbers, UN Says

UNITED NATIONS — A record number of children from Latin America and the Caribbean are leaving their homes in search of a better life, risking disease, injury and abuse, a United Nations children’s agency report said Wednesday, urging a stronger humanitarian response. Driven by violence, destitution and severe weather, at least 40,000 children crossed the perilous Darien jungle separating Central and South America last year, compared with 29,000 in 2021 and several times more than in previous years.

In just the first six months of 2023, more than 40,000 children made the dangerous journey, indicating the total number is likely to be much higher at the end of the year. Six hundred of the children were unaccompanied. “Gang violence, instability, poverty and climate-related events are, alarmingly, gripping the region and pushing more children from their homes,” UNICEF regional director Garry Conille said in a statement.

“When they cross several countries and sometimes the entire region, disease and injury, family separation and abuse may plague their journeys and, even if they make it to their destination, their futures often remain at risk,” Conille added. According to UNICEF, children represent 25% of migrants in the region, a proportion now as high as in sub-Saharan Africa, compared with about 13% worldwide. And children under 11 make up nearly 91% of the displaced children in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Conille urged the international community to commit to a “stronger humanitarian response as well as the expansion of safe and regular migration pathways for children and families to help protect their rights and their futures, no matter where they are from.” Whether they come from South America, Africa or Asia, a large number of these migrants seek to reach Mexico, the United States and Canada. The number of children intercepted by the authorities at the southern border of the United States is also on the rise, UNICEF said.

Source: VOA