Children traveling with migrant caravan in Mexico at risk of psychosocial distress

Many children traveling with the migrant caravan in Mexico are showing signs of anguish and psychosocial distress, according to UNICEF staff on the ground. In certain cases, children are expressing fears of violence or separation from their families, while other children are finding it difficult to engage in play and recreational activities organized by UNICEF. The children’s organization, together with its partners, is quickly scaling up its support for psychosocial interventions to reach these children in need.

Children traveling with the caravan have been subjected to a range of possible stressors including sadness at leaving behind their home and loved ones, uncertainty about the journey, extreme and sudden changes, loss of routine, physical exhaustion, dehydration and illness. Some children may also have been exposed to traumatic events in their countries of origin such as gang and gender-based violence, or separation from their families.

Any of these factors could negatively affect the physical and psychological wellbeing of children, and cause toxic stress if left unaddressed. Psychosocial support can help lower the impact on children of having to abandon their homes and enduring gruelling travel conditions.

UNICEF, in coordination with the Government and other partners, is installing tents at the country’s southern border and at the Stadium Jesús Martínez “Palillo” in Mexico City, where a large part of the group is gathering, to provide a range of psychosocial support services for children including storybook readings, relaxation exercises and drawing therapy. These spaces will also be used for children to rest and mothers to breastfeed.

This work comes in addition to the provision of clean water, sanitation supplies and oral rehydration salts.

UNICEF reiterates its call on all governments to prioritize the best interests of children in the application of immigration laws and procedures, to keep families together, and to find alternatives to immigration detention of children.

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