Panama Blocks Doctors Without Borders Aid to Migrants in Darien

March 8, 2024 Hour: 9:47 am

This week, the administration of President Laurentino Cortizo ordered Doctors Without Borders (MSF) to suspend its activities in the Darien, the jungle traversed by thousands of migrants on their way to the United States.


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Authorities argue that MSF does not have a valid collaboration agreement with the Health Ministry. Doctors Without Borders, however, pointed out that it has been unsuccessfully trying to obtain the agreement renewal since October 2023.

MSF is deeply concerned about the consequences the suspension has on the migrant population because “on average, each month, medical teams provide physical and psychological health care to nearly 5,000 people, with a special emphasis on survivors of sexual violence,” the international NGO stated.

In the past year, MSF assisted 676 migrants who were victims of sexual violence while traveling through that migratory route. In January 2024, MSF treated 120 cases of this kind.

“In the latest attacks, the level of brutality is extreme: a dozen armed men are detaining larger and larger groups of migrants, between 100 and 400 people, threatening them, assaulting them, systematically sexually abusing women, in front of other migrants and even in front of their families and children,” said Luis Eguiluz, MSF’s head of mission in Panama and Colombia.

Given the evident health needs, which have increased exponentially over the last three years, MSF hopes to resume medical care in the Darien as soon as possible because this suspension also coincides with the expected increase in the number of migrants in Panama this week, after boat transports resumed in Colombia.

The Darien, a jungle that separates Panama and Colombia, is fraught with dangers for migrants, who face risks generated by the tropical climate, wild animals, and armed criminal groups.

In the first two months of 2024, over 68,400 migrants have crossed the Darien. This figure represents an increase of 22,673 migrants compared to the same period last year, as reported by the newspaper La Estrella.

“Panama registers migrants upon their arrival in Indigenous communities at the exit of the jungle or in the shelters where migrants receive shelter and food,” it recalled, adding that authorities have hardened their position regarding migrant transit through the Darien, alleging that this route has become a source of income for human traffickers.

Autor: teleSUR/ JF

Fuente: La Estrella - MSF

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