One of the main reasons a lot of these Central Americans have fled their countries is because of the rampant gang violence in their neighborhoods. These gangs, bolstered by mass U.S. deportations and civil war aftermaths, are known for abusing women, extorting people for “rent” and cruel acts of violence like murder. Fearing for their safety and wellbeing, members of the caravans see the exodus as an opportunity to escape threats and dangers from the maras (gangs).
One critical factor to consider is the health of those participating in the caravan. Health concerns can be both a motivating factor for fleeing and deeply impacted by the journey itself. Some of the biggest health concerns include the needs of pregnant women and their babies, accessibility to toiletries and bathroom facilities, cuts and sores on feet, access to water, respiratory illnesses, and access to wheelchairs for people with disabilities.
On the journey from these Central American countries through Mexico, the weather conditions are hot and windy in the daytime and cold at night. The heat has taken a toll on people as they are sometimes forced to exhaust their water supply. Dust from whipping winds has led to respiratory illnesses and the dramatic weather conditions have given people fevers and colds. In support of the migrants, Mexican health workers have volunteered to provide care. They have treated more than 1,000 migrants for respiratory illnesses, fevers, and have even performed ultrasounds on pregnant women.
To ease some of these hardships, there have been efforts to provide buses for the migrants. Some have been trips from one state to the next closest state and some have been bus rides along the western coast of Mexico. These rides have helped alleviate some of the walking for the migrants and protected them from the intense weather conditions, if only for a moment.
Yet, health concerns like access to bathrooms, shelter and accessibilities for migrants with disabilities are a pressing matter. At times migrants have had to bathe and relieve themselves in rivers along the way. They have slept on the ground wherever they could pitch a makeshift tent. People have walked on crutches when they have not had access to a wheelchair. These are some of the immediate health concerns the migrants are facing, but there are also important psychological, emotional, and safety concerns such as the dealing with the trauma of abruptly leaving one’s home or the risk of being sexually assaulted.
These are people seeking asylum, and just as they have a right to seek sanctuary, they also have a right to human health.
- C.M. Fernandes, Erick & Soliman, Ayat & Confalonieri, Roberto & Donatelli, Marcello & Tubiello, Francesco. (2012). Climate Change and Agriculture in Latin America, 2020-2050.